Camp Manna (PG)

In a word: Goofy

Camp Manna

The Last Supper Pie Eating Contest, part of the God Games at Camp Manna.

 

"Yes, Camp Manna is mildly smutty and gross (hence the PG rating) but the comedy, while juvenile, comes across as a gentle dig at Christian culture rather than anything nasty. There are some genuinely funny moments and, yes, even some moments of nostalgia (and not just for those who have been on such camps but for any who have in the past come into contact in the past with aspects of US evangelical culture)."

A film in the tradition of American teen comedies based on the idea of the summer camp, Camp Manna focuses on some of the bizarrer aspects of the Christian camp culture. 

The story follows that of 15-year-old Ian Fletcher (played by film first-timer Luke Klein), an non-believing orphan whose guardians decide needs some friends and send him off to Camp Manna for the summer where they hope he'll find some.

Ruled over by the grizzled veteran Jack 'Cujo' Parrish (Gary Busey), the camp, with its weird sub-culture is a bit of a nightmare for Fletcher and only made weirder by the fact that he's placed in the cabin of the try-hard camp counsellor Bradley Sommers (Evan Koons), dubbed the 'Passover Privates'.

The camp's big event is the annual God Games, a series of increasingly ridiculous contents between the various cabins which includes everything from an all-you-can-eat Last Supper to a Ben Hur "chariot race" and the ultimate test, which involves using a giant pillow floating on a lake to propel someone as high as you can into the air.

Already uncomfortable, Fletcher soon realises he's been thrust among the camp's perennial losers and realising that they're liable to come last (again) in the games, he quickly decides to ditch Sommers and his crew and join the 'Righteous Regiment' led by athletic superstar Clayton Vance (Jimmy Tatro).

Of course, Fletcher soon starts to have regrets about his actions and it's here that the movie's narrative introduces the themes of redemption, the power of friendship, fitting in, and...well, you know the drill.

Yes, Camp Manna is mildly smutty and gross (hence the PG rating) but the comedy, while juvenile, comes across as a gentle dig at Christian culture rather than anything nasty. There are some genuinely funny moments and, yes, even some moments of nostalgia (and not just for those who have been on such camps but for any who have in the past come into contact in the past with aspects of US evangelical culture).

The debut film from co-writers and directors Eric Scott Johnson and Eric Machiela, its strength lies in its take on what is, let's face it, a rather odd sub-culture as well as the cast - Klein does a great job of playing the straight man (er, teenager) while Koons and Tatro ham up their roles appropriately and Gary Busey is well, Gary Busey.

Not a film that's going to appeal to everyone but if you like your comedy a little bit silly (with a dash of nostalgia tossed in), this could be one for you.

Camp Manna is available for digital download in Australia.