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FAT CAMP Isn’t Phat or Campy Enough (LAFF Review)

FAT CAMP Isn’t Phat or Campy Enough (LAFF Review)

Fat Camp comes with a certain amount of nerd pedigree, being directed by Jennifer Arnold, who also helmed 58 episodes of Wil Wheaton’s TableTop, as well as the documentary segments of the Glee 3D concert movie. It’s mildly disappointing, then, to note that this is a rather formulaic camp counselor/dubious mentor comedy, distinguished from the pack mostly by the sheer amount of f-words and vulgar references to oral sex by one of the kids. It’s still amusing enough that you might not turn it off if it were on TV, but it lacks the transcendence from template that helps us to fondly remember Meatballs, Wet Hot American Summer, or even Ernest Goes to Camp.

Hutch (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping‘s Chris Redd), a narcissist who looks at himself doing ab crunches in the mirror while having sex, isn’t motivated by anything as dramatic as parole to become a counselor at a fitness camp; he’s merely being kicked out of the house by his mom (Vivica A. Fox) after four years of joblessness. Unable to persuade his closest friends to let him freeload with them instead, he grudgingly concedes to work for his uncle Mike (The Last Man on Earth‘s Mel Rodriguez) at the aforementioned camp for kids, despite the fact that he himself spent an unpleasant summer there years ago, back when he was overweight.

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Once the set-up is in place, most of what ensues is easily guessable. Will Hutch annoy everyone and screw up at first? Will he start a rivalry with the jock counselors at another nearby camp? Can his heart ever melt and allow him to find acceptance? Will the gorgeous female counselor (Anabelle Acosta) who just wants him to shut up change her mind? When all is on the right track, will he backslide and screw up worse before rallying to the final challenge? Do I really have to answer any of these questions for you? If I do, the movie might actually surprise you.

The pleasure of movies like this is usually found in a combination of the bad mentor being Bad Santa-levels of hilarious f***uppery, and the dorky misfits winning your heart and his for a final triumph. Fat Camp nails the latter, but not the former; Hutch is a selfish jerk at first, but not in an especially funny way. It also should be noted that for a movie with an essentially positive message–exercise and weight loss is good, but not hating your fat is good too–this very much wants to have it both ways. There’s a running gag about Hutch’s effeminate trainee (Michael Cienfuegos) having the hots for a fat woman who isn’t particularly nice, and there’s a lot of mileage gotten from the frequently uttered gay-panic “No homo!” punchline before the movie ultimately rebukes it…and then sneaks in another one under the wire for good measure.

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One always hesitates to guess how much a screenplay changes from the first draft but it really feels like what was here was a bare-bones structure that could ideally be optimized by an improvisational comedy star. Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey, or Will Ferrell might have been able to elevate the basic material, while Redd and company seek the easy laugh of an f-bomb or a gross vagina/masturbation reference. It’s hard to be offended, as the comedy isn’t exactly edgy or risk-taking; and it’s easy enough to be moderately entertained…the finale, at least, is creative.

But unlike summer camp, which stereotypically begins with kids not wanting to go and ends with them never wanting to leave, this is more of an “eh, maybe I’ll go” experience that culminates in possibly not entirely regretting the time spent, but definitely wanting to move on.

2.5 burritos out of 5

2.5 burritos

Images: FC Production

Luke Y. Thompson likes to review the movie-films. For more from him, Tweet at @LYTrules.

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