Summer Camp (2024)

Diane Keaton, Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard star in “Summer Camp”

Strong cast can’t prevent a bummer ‘Summer’

Movie lovers over 60 are a vastly underserved demographic in Hollywood, demonstratively so when the few films geared toward them are as inane as the idiotic “Summer Camp.” It stars two Oscar winners in Diane Keaton and Kathy Bates along with a couple of Emmy recipients in Alfre Woodard and Eugene Levy. But despite those impressive pedigrees, the latest dud from writer-director Castille Landon is borderline torture.

Beyond dishing out platitudes about friendship, lifelong bonds and personal growth, the movie embarrassingly squanders a cast that also includes Dennis Haysbert and Beverly D’Angelo. Each has been assigned a “type” and offered little in the way of an inner life. Keaton’s Nora is the workaholic; Woodard’s Mary is a lonely, unappreciated spouse; and Bates’ Ginny is the Type-A overachiever whose arrogance belies a host of insecurities.

It’s a given that the trio of childhood pals will see the errors of their ways through high jinks and a raucous combination of romance, kumbaya moments and those summer camp rituals of food and pillow fights. So, what else have you got for me? Sadly, nothing other than an opportunity for the three leads to cash a paycheck. They act accordingly, seeming every bit as apathetic as us.

The story, or what little there is, begins in the mid-1960s at North Carolina’s Camp Pinnacle (a real summer resort) with Ginny, Nora and Mary meeting cute during a menstruation crisis on a camp toilet. I can’t think of a better metaphor for a movie that’s a leaky mess. In voice-over, Ginny tells us it was at that moment that the threesome became forever friends who oddly rarely saw each other after high school.

Flash forward 50 years to today – the women, now all north of 65 – are planning to gather where it all began for a week-long reunion attended by dozens of camp alums, including the hated Jane, leader of the cliquey Pretty Committee. I assume we’re supposed to infer that the casting of D’Angelo in the part is a subtle nod to her iconic role in those other summer “Vacation” movies. But I suspect I’m giving Landon way too much credit, as evidenced by the total lack of cleverness and imagination in the rest of her script.

Sex toys, arrow piercings and the aforementioned food fight are just a sampling of her lame brand of “comedy.” What? No camp-wide outbreak of explosive diarrhea? Well, Landon does practice some decorum. But something tells me the idea entered her mind somewhere along the line. Instead, she goes in a more tedious direction via the clunky flirtations between the widowed Nora and Levy’s Stevie D., and Mary’s chaste encounters with Haysbert’s impossibly charming silver fox, Tommy.

Each of the couplings hints at a spark, but none of these sexless encounters ignite. I suspect Landon believed her audience would be put off by the notion of AARP members doing the deed. Her idea of passion is a brief stolen kiss in the camp kitchen and R-rated pottery throwing. The scandal!

It’s not until we’re more than an hour into this colossal waste of time that Landon cuts to the chase and allows the three gal pals to unleash on each other during a summer Festivus of grievances.

Out of the blue, Ginny, the self-proclaimed “next Dr. Phil,” unloads on Mary, invoking her slogan “Get Your Shit Together,” to call out the ER nurse as a spineless doormat. She then rips into Nora, berating her for spending more time in the lab creating cleaning products than experiencing life. Finally, it’s Ginny’s turn to be reemed out by her “buds” for being a phony whose multi-million-dollar self-help fiefdom is merely a front to mask her lack of self-confidence.

In a flash, all is forgiven, bromides are exchanged, intimidating aerial obstacle course conquered and everyone presumably returns to their sedate everyday lives to hopefully never surface again. At least let’s hope so for our sake.

Movie review

Summer Camp

Rated: PG-13 for sexual material, strong language, some underage smoking

Cast: Diane Keaton, Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodard, Eugene Levy, Dennis Haysbert, Nicole Richie and Josh Peck

Director: Castille Landon

Writer: Castille Landon

Runtime: 96 minutes

Where: In theaters May 31

Grade: D

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