Cast: Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Nathan Lee Graham, Ayo Edebiri, Owen Thiele, and Amy Sedaris
Directors: Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman
Theater Camp is an utter delight, a cute mockumentary that’s filled with a lot of heart. While it can be a little over the top and ridiculous at times, it’s an overall riot. Even if you aren’t a theater geek, this gem will have you smiling from ear-to-ear due to its pitch perfect cast. I’m still baffled that it was mostly improvised because there are so many hilarious and quotable lines throughout. My hat goes off to the directors, Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, for delivering a modern Christopher Guest-style comedy. Theater Camp would make for a perfect double feature with School of Rock.
Theater Camp is essentially Gen-Z’s take on Wet Hot American Summer (2001). It isn’t quite as funny as that film, but it manages to come surprisingly close. The entire cast does a good job, but Molly Gordon and Ben Platt really shine. My main gripe with the film is that it doesn’t feel very committed to its mockumentary style. Scenes tend to be shot very traditionally, ignoring the limitations they should be facing. Despite that, Theater Camp gave me pretty much everything I could’ve wanted. It has great performances, it’s funny, and it’s got a touching emotional core.
Theater Camp won’t change the world, but I couldn’t get enough of it. It was just such an easy movie for me to fall for, not just as someone who grew up a theater kid, but as someone who loves to laugh. Admittedly, not all the emotional beats worked for me, but I laughed the whole way through thanks to the clever writing and hilarious cast, including a bunch of kids who never failed to crack me up. And as cheesy as it is, the ending really got to me. This is the kind of film I’d recommend to everybody.
Theater Camp is fun, heartwarming, and filled with a chaotic energy perfectly suited to the mockumentary genre. Every character is over-the-top eccentric, which works perfectly for a film based on dramatic theater kids. Most of the comedy lands, and there is a lot of talent to be found from the large cast, many of whom are sure to be rising stars in the near future. Theater Camp delivers a wonderful message for people who don’t fit the norm, but most of all, this film is just really joyful, tongue-in-cheek entertainment that will undoubtedly have you smiling from ear-to-ear.
While my interest largely resides in film, as a former theater actor, Theater Camp is a breath of fresh comic air that made me feel seen. Not all the jokes land as intended, especially without a crowd who understands them, but the film’s heart is as big as it can be, and its deep appreciation for all theater is palpable. Even days after a first viewing, I’m unable to shake the charm of it. All the performances work (including every kid), including Jimmy Tatro’s, but it’s the extended cast that really excels, especially Ayo Edebiri and Noah Galvin.
This film was reviewed by Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.