Theatre Camp – Our favourite movie summer camps

“This one time, at band camp…” For readers of a certain age, those words by school band nerd Michelle in 1999’s ‘American Pie’ are seared onto our brains. And for a lot of us non-Americans, Michelle’s story also represents what we understand about summer camp in American culture: where kids are packed off to what are basically summer schools for weeks or even months at a time, and where all sorts of coming of age Shenanigans ensue.

With the arrival on our screens of (it’s the American-spelling-so-just-deal-with-it) ‘Theater Camp’ (co-written by and co-starring gay musical power couple, Ben Platt & Noah Galvin), we revisit our favourite movie summer camp memories.

American Pie (1999):
Although we don’t see Michelle’s experiences depicted at band camp (we’re choosing to ignore the extremely attenuated spin-off, ‘American Pie: Band Camp’), her many anecdotes throughout the movie build a vivid, if boring image. But then she reveals the absolute whopper story about an experience with a flute and, well, this is a family publication so we suggest watching it for yourself if you don’t know how it ends.

Camp (2003):
Marking its 20th anniversary this year, Camp is an under-appreciated gem set at an upstate New York performing arts summer camp & would make for a killer double feature with ‘Theater Camp’. The young cast is uniformly great, but special mention must go to an unknown Anna Kendrick, who steals the show with a rendition of ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ that is for the ages. ‘Camp’ walked so ‘Glee’ could run.

Addams Family Values (1993):
A central & hilarious plot-point of this superior sequel sees Pugsley and Wednesday (HRH, Queen Christina Ricci, I) sent to Camp Chippewa. There, they clash with the cheery counsellors and blonde witch Amanda, before hijacking the Thanksgiving play and setting fire to the place. Oh, and Wednesday gets her first kiss with Joel (David Krumholtz, currently starring in ‘Oppenheimer’).

The Parent Trap (’98)
25 years old this year, can you believe it? As fans will know, it’s at summer camp where long-lost identical twins Hallie and Annie (a 12-year-old Lindsay Lohan in a dual performance that sincerely was deserving of an Oscar nomination) discover one another and hatch their life-swapping-estranged-parent-reuniting scheme.

Wet Hot American Summer (2001):
This comedy about the counsellors at a summer camp in the early 1980s more or less sank upon its initial release, later becoming something of a cult classic (and earning a Netflix sequel in 2017). Its lack of success in 2001 is hard to believe when you look at the cast of names that still dominate American TV and movies to this day: Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks to name but a few.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012):
The only way you could possibly entice this writer to a summer camp is to nab me a spot at a Wes Anderson-curated place. This is a wonderfully silly and sweet movie about a lonely orphan who escapes from scouting camp to find his pen pal.

Troop Beverly Hills
Scratch that: the actual only way you’d get this writer to a summer camp is to have Shelley Long as the troop leader. Here, she plays a reluctant den mother of her daughter’s girl scout group, leading them on an adventure to survive in the wilderness.

Friday the 13th (’80):
Camp Crystal Lake is the doomed setting for this imperishable franchise, in the original we discover why the killer hasn’t been in a very kum-ba-ya mood with the randy counsellors occupying the camp (including a young Kevin Bacon).

Words: Declan Cashin

THEATRE CAMP is at Irish cinemas from August 25th