Theater Camp

Movie Review

Theater Camp

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on August 1, 2023

Theatrical Release:
July 14, 2023

Instead of aiming for mass appeal, "Theater Camp" digs deep into its subject matter, ending up with a film that its target audience will absolutely love but is unlikely to impress anyone without some kind of stage or backstage experience. Jump to review ↓

Running Time93 min


Running Time 93 min


Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman

Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman, Ben Platt (short & screenplay); Noah Galvin (screenplay)

Molly Gordon (Rebecca-Diane), Ben Platt (Amos Klobuchar), Noah Galvin (Glenn Wintrop), Jimmy Tatro (Troy Rubinsky), Patti Harrison (Caroline Krauss), Nathan Lee Graham (Clive DeWitt), Ayo Edebiri (Janet Walch), Owen Thiele (Gigi Charbonier), Caroline Aaron (Rita Cohen), Amy Sedaris (Joan Rubinsky), Alan Kim (Alan Park), Kyndra Sanchez (Darla Sanchez), Alexander Bello (Sebastian Campbell), Luke Islam (Christopher L.), Bailee Bonick (Mackenzie Thomas), Donovan Colan (Devon Miller), Vivienne Sachs (Lainy Fischer), Quinn Titcomb (Alice Taylor), Jack Sobolewski as Christopher S.), Madisen Lora (Franny King)

“Theater Camp” Movie Review

by Luke Bonanno

The mockumentary Theater Camp is a comedy for past and present theatre kids made by former theatre kids. This feature hails from the same people who created and shared an 18-minute short film of the same name at the start of the pandemic, only it promotes co-writer/lead actress Molly Gordon to co-director and boasts a little more prestige with the backing of Disney’s Searchlight Pictures as distributor and Will Ferrell as producer.

Instead of aiming for mass appeal, Theater Camp digs deep into its subject matter, ending up with a film that its target audience will absolutely love but is unlikely to impress anyone without some kind of stage or backstage experience.

Longtime Adiron-ACTS teachers Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) and Amos (Ben Platt) hastily put together an original musical about their beloved camp's founder in "Theater Camp."

Adiron-ACTS has long been a treasured institution for artsy youths. The summer camp in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains is a beloved tradition for the few dozen who attend each year. The premise here is that a never-seen film crew is to document life at the camp, and they refuse to change course when the camp’s founder Joan Rubinsky (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma from a Bye Bye Birdie-related injury. The show must go on, though, and the three-week camp proceeds with Joan’s clout-chasing son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) taking control. Having not inherited his mother’s theatre gene, he’s completely out of his element and largely dependent on the camp’s mainstays, which include lifelong campers turned teachers Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Gordon), do-it-all crew guy Glenn (Noah Galvin), choreographer Clive (Nathan Lee Graham), and costumer Gigi (Owen Thiele).

Determined to overcome the unforeseen adversity, the camp’s staff pushes through and sticks to traditions, with Amos and Rebecca-Diane’s annual original play poised to tell the life story of the comatose Joan. Meanwhile, Troy tries to figure out how to stave off the bank foreclosing on the camp’s mortgage, a situation that has vultures circling, one in particular (Patti Harrison).

If you’ve seen movies like Waiting for Guffman and Hamlet 2, you kind of know what to expect here. The comedy comes fast and furiously, with the creators content for you to miss one out of every three jokes or so. There are so many jokes crammed into just an hour and a half of movie and a lot of them land in a ridiculous, over-the-top way. Drama kings and queens might seem out of touch in many ways, but Gordon, her co-writer/co-director Nick Lieberman, and stars/writers Galvin and Platt all display tremendous self-awareness and are game to poke fun at the extreme, relentless exuberance that is par for this field.

Both theater camp inheritor Troy (Jimmy Tatro) and resume-fudging new hire Janet (Ayo Edebiri) belive in the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach.

Troy serves as the outsider, a possibly relatable entry point for those who haven’t experienced either directly or indirectly rehearsals, blocking, acting exercises, set strikes, and cast dinners. He and his fellow “influencers” place this squarely in contemporary times. The rapid-fire satire will resonate most with those who recognize themselves and colleagues in the depictions. It works in a similar way to how things like “Glee”, Pitch Perfect, and High School Musical sort of work, but with a little more insider insight, since many of the cast and crew are seasoned in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, most significantly Tony winner Platt, whose self-effacing work here undoubtedly should diminish some of the reasonable hostility towards his 2021 film version of Dear Evan Hanson.

Platt is far from the only nepo baby here. Gordon’s parents have worked extensively in TV and film as director, writer, and producer. Lieberman is the son of actress and memory savant Marilu Henner. And while it seems highly unlikely these twenty- and thirty-somethings could get such golden opportunities without their genes, they all make convincing cases for deserving this venue and the further opportunities that should follow.

After an impressive strategic debut on just six screens, Theater Camp continues to expand on great reviews and word-of-mouth. Acquired by Searchlight for under $10 million after a Sundance Film Festival premiere last January, the movie isn’t expected to put up Barbenheimer numbers. Even if it sustains some of its low-key indie momentum, it won’t be long before it turns up on Hulu, ripe for discovery and appreciation by theatre people who scoff at movie theaters.

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