Camp Hideout Image

Camp Hideout

By Bobby LePire | September 15, 2023

Due to the presence of Christopher Lloyd, director Sean Olson’s Camp Hideout will bring to mind Camp Nowhere for several audience members. Written by Kat Olson, C. Neil Davenport, and Dave DeBorde, the film also contains shades of Home Alone and even Olson’s own F.R.E.D.I.. Does the family-friendly comedy get smothered in the nostalgia for those other titles? Or can the film find its own path?

Noah (Ethan Drew) is a troubled teen living in a foster home. After agreeing to help some thieves, the boy is in serious trouble, especially since he pinched the goods from the bumbling burglars. Now Selena (Amanda Leighton) gives Noah one last shot to stay out of juvenile hall by attending a church-run summer camp. The kid agrees, believing it would be a good way of lying low for a while.

Once at Deer Run Summer Camp, Noah is ambushed with questions from his bunkmates, Oliver (Tyler Kowalski) and Chase (Zion Wyatt). But making friends is not high on his priority list, so Noah is concise and stand-off-ish, though not as much as camp owner Falco (Lloyd) is. However, a budding friendship with Mallory (Jenna Raine Simmons) seems to break down his walls slightly. Unfortunately, bully Trey (Luca Alexander) has singled out Noah, making his experience miserable. All the while, the big city goons, Charlie (Josh Inocalla) and Willis (Joshua Childs) have figured out where Noah is and are coming for him. Will Noah run away from his troubles again or take a stand and fight back with his newfound friends?

Camp Hideout wears its message and values on its sleeves. The kids will point blank discuss their misgivings over this or that incident. Camp counselor Jake (Corbin Bleu) talks with Noah about a young kid who struggled and then found the right path. Want to guess who that kid turns out to be?

“…gives Noah one last shot to stay out of juvenile hall by attending a church-run summer camp.”

But the saccharine nature of the script is not really a problem; it just means that everything is tidied up with a nice little bow. Reality, this is not. Once audiences get on the same wavelength as the film, a sweet earnestness permeates everything. It’s nice that there is family-friendly entertainment with a capital F. It helps that the cast is uniformly strong. A hallmark of Olson’s other titles is how good he is with child actors, and the same holds true here.

Drew is endearing as the troubled teen throughout Camp Hideout. When running away from a cop early on, Noah accidentally runs into a lady carrying groceries. He stops to help her pick them up. The actor plays this moment with sincerity. Later on, in a moment between him and the legend that is Lloyd, the young thespian ably holds his own. For his part, Lloyd, who is pushing 90, is still as commanding a presence as he’s ever been. His deadpan delivery kills with laughter often.

Bleu is reliable, delivering the more serious role with charm. Kowalski and Wyatt are fun as the overly friendly bunkmates. Inocalla and Childs play off each other naturally, turning the too-dumb-for-their-good villains into constant sources of amusement.

Olson keeps the pace chugging at a hearty speed so there’s not much fat to excise. Every scene serves its purpose, and then the film moves forward. This does mean a few of the characters, Mallory and Selena, for instance, aren’t as fleshed out as the boys Noah bunks with. But it also means that the film is a tight 100 minutes, swiftly delivering laughs, drama, and action.

Camp Hideout is another fun feature from Sean Olson, who is quickly becoming the go-to filmmaker for solidly made, independent, family-friendly fare. The action hijinks are both exciting and funny. The cast is good, and the direction keeps the momentum at a steady pace.

Camp Hideout (2023)

Directed: Sean Olson

Written: Kat Olson, C. Neil Davenport, Dave DeBorde

Starring: Ethan Drew, Tyler Kowalski, Zion Wyatt, Amanda Leighton, Jenna Raine Simmons, Corbin Bleu, Christopher Lloyd, Luca Alexander, Josh Inocalla, Joshua Childs, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Camp Hideout Image

"…swiftly delivering laughs, drama, and action."

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