Camp Takota – Film Review
After the travesty that was Smiley, I’m skeptical about any more YouTube star film attempts.
Camp Takota is better than Smiley.
But that’s about all it has going for it.
TL;DR Average and derivative to its complete detriment, Camp Takota proves that YouTubers can make a movie just like any other movie. In this case, just like any other boring, straight-to-video or midday movie fluff. Mamrie Hart impresses, but that’s probably because she wrote herself the best role. 2 out of 5 stars.
She saw an opportunity and she took it.
The plot is dull. Grace Helbig plays a late 20s struggling writer living in the city. She has an unfulfilling job as a publishing assistant or whatever, and gets fired arbitrarily when she forgets how to use a digital camera. She comes home to find her hunky fiancé is a super cheater, so fucks off to work at Camp Takota, a summer camp she used to work at when she was 19. There she meets her old best friends Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart. Grace finds working at camp similarly unfulfilling and pretty much just sulks around a lot. The plot picks up when the camp comes under threat of closing down and being taken over by the token Evil Developer, which would make Mamrie really unhappy because she was hoping to run the camp soon. Grace, Hannah, and Mamrie team up to make the camp the best thing evar and save it from extinction, which they do. Grace also has a romance subplot with a local farmer; Mamrie has her career subplot, and a romance subplot with the groundskeeper; Hannah has a subplot about wanting to go to chef school, which conflicts with the camp, natch; and Grace also helps out a lonely little girl in our token “heartwarming” subplot.
If Grace, Mamrie, and Hannah’s goal was to prove that YouTubers can indeed make a movie that feels like a real movie, then they’ve succeeded.
But there is not a single thing that’s surprising about Camp Takota at all. Every story beat happens exactly as you expect it to. The comedy is rarely funnier than a light exhaling-air-out-of-your-nose-faster-than-usual. And the profanity, which is what our 3 YouTube goddesses frequently use to sell themselves, is kept to a bare minimum.
So I guess they got that executive-meddled, watered down feeling right as well.
Why I hate this movie:
The one thing Camp Takota did that wasn’t exactly on-beat was to hold back the Evil Developer until 53 fucking minutes into the movie. So instead of being an essential part of the plot, it just feels like a tacked on impetus for our main characters to have something to do. As opposed to sitting around trying to be funny and occasionally whingeing. I didn’t like it in Silver Linings Playbook, and that was on Oscar winner. I certainly didn’t like it here.
It becomes increasingly obvious that Mamrie gifted herself the best role when she was writing the script. Grace’s character fades into semi-romcom stupidity, while Mamrie becomes the emotional centre of the movie, as well as the most relevant to the plot. She gets 2 big, teary monologues. And while she does a good job of them, I see what you’re doing there, Mamrie.
Little Suzy No Enthusiasm is Grace’s morality pet. She’s the chain that convinces Grace to return to camp and help them impress the parents instead of going back to the city and getting her dream job. Because the power of friendship and sad little girls is stronger than the courage to pursue your dreams.
The resolution of the “Let’s Save Camp” plot doesn’t make sense. Apparently a slightly above average visitors’ day is all it takes for record pre-registration numbers to come pouring in. And Suzy No Friends’ selfish, rich mum offers to fucking sponsor the camp.
Grace’s fiancé turns up on the night of visitors’ day and desperately tries to win her back. Eli the farmer steps in and the 2 men violently fist fight each other. Not only is it not alarming for one of the counselor’s domestic drama to put the children in physical danger, but the excitement of this is a motivator for the record sign-ups for next year. What. The. Fuck.
Grace also finds men fighting each other extremely attractive, and this is applauded by everyone. Cunt, no. What an appalling message. Is this 2014?
Grace wears a few gallons’ too much makeup in the city scenes.
Grace’s book is a YA paranormal romance. When confronted with the fact that it’s rubbish, she’s like “Lol jk, I was only writing that crap because it’s popular. I’m more interested in doing something way more ambitious.” So what does she end up writing? A fucking children’s book about…camp. Wow. Much credibility. So star reaching.
Grace gets fired from her job because she accidentally uploads the wrong photos from her camera to Facebook. What an idiot.
Hannah gets surprisingly shafted by the homophobia police. She gets a couple of lines about being gay. And while Grace and Mamrie get to have big, fancy on-screen kisses, Hannah sees her lady lover who is off-screen, then runs off-screen to be with her. So not only do we get no kiss, we also don’t even see the chick at all.
The Brothers Riedell, who helped make the movie, insert a Facebook ad for themsleves when Grace is browsing Facebook in one scene. Ew.
There’s multiple awkward rap songs.
There are way too many transitional fades.
The score is boring.
Oh, and on a personal note, I don’t know if summer camp is an American thing or I just missed out on it during my suburban, Australian youth, but it sounds like the worst thing ever. Why on Earth would any kid want to spend 3 months camping when they could chill out with all their actual friends at home? With TV and Internet access?
But it’s not all bad:
As a longtime fan of Grace, Mamrie (particularly), and Hanna on YouTube, it was kinda great seeing this movie come to life. Despite it being average as hell, I won’t begrudge them the achievement of actually following through with their plan to make a movie.
The score and the fades aside, it otherwise looks very professional. It doesn’t look like a cheap piece of shit, which is a boost to making it feel like a legitimate film.
Mamrie Hart is the best thing about it. She proves she is a talented actress. Her 2 cry-rant scenes showcase her well.
Hannah is effective in a minor role. She gets to have the lightest emotional burden, and it suits her.
The Evil Developer, who is the current camp director’s app-money son, steals the few scenes he’s in. He gets best line of the movie when, after insulting Mamrie by calling her Maxi Pad (her name is Max), he compares himself to a tampon: “I’m slim. And I’m out for blood.” If Glee’s taught us anything, it’s that fantastic one-liners can hide in the most mediocre of places.
Hannah gets second best line after the big fight between Grace and Mamrie, wherein Grace dropped the bomb that Hanna has been hiding her acceptance into a chef’s institute to spare Mamrie’s feelings. Grace tries to give Hanna some life advice, and Hannah hits the nail on the head: “You’re the last person I need life advice from.” Pretty much.
While the F-bombs are rare, there are a lot of middle fingers flying around. I appreciated that.
Grace gets poison ivy vagina. Predictable, but fun.
The douchebag fiancé looks good shirtless.
Grace pisses herself while passed out drunk. Ah, memories.
Grace’s rubbish YA book is about a sexy Loch Ness Monster. Wet For Nessie?
Oh, and during the big fight, Grace rightly points out that Mamrie’s stake in the camp goes beyond friendship/tradition/warm fuzzies, and is really about earning herself a promotion. Snap snap, bitch.
It’s like a midday movie but all the actors are people you watch talk into cameras on YouTube. We’ll see if Shane Dawson’s movie, or the 5SF “You pay, we play” scheme will do any better. Keep improving, YouTube. 2 out of 5 stars.