Todd Graff, better known until now as a writer (“Fly by Night,” “Used People”) and actor, makes a decent (but no more) directorial debut with the musical comedy “Camp,” featuring a nice ensemble of amateurs and newcomers.
Modest to a fault, but laced with a heathy dosage of humor (campy and otherwise), “Camp” world- premiered in the drmatic cometition of the 2003 Sundance Film Fest, and is being distributed by IFC.
The feature’s protag is Guitarist Vlad (Daniel Letterle), who attends Camp Ovation, the summer theater camp for budding actors, dancers, and musicians.
Realizing that he is in minority position—a gay surrounded by hetero boys, he befriends Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), who becomes his soul mate. Meanwhile, openly gay Michael (Robin de Jesus) develops a crush on him. This sparks competitions and confrontations among fellow campers Jenna (Tiffany Taylor), Jill (Alana Allen), and Fritzi (Anna Kendrick).
The camp is run by Bert Hanley (Don Dixon), a washed-up Broadway songwriter. In a nod to “Fame” and numeortus other musicals, the film describes how Hanley decides to enlist the help of his young campers to put together a new production.
Hanley is nothing is not ambitious, for his selection of tunes includes numbers by Stephen Sondheim and the Rolling Stones, as well as original tunes from composer Michael Gore and lyricist Lynn Ahrens.
Mildy amusing, technically raw, and often poorly structured, “Camp” is exactly the kind of low-budget indie film that Sundance should display.
Self-indulgent, the film could hav eused a good editing and trimming. Cloaking in at two hours, it overextends its wlecome by at least 20 minutes or so.
Whether Graff has real talents and skills as director will be determined by his next outing—hopefully something bolder and more original.
Running time: 115 Minutes.
Directed and written by Todd Graff
Released July 25, 2003.
DVD: February 24, 2004