- Narrative Feature/Official Selection
- 94 Minutes/USA/2019
- Director: Nate James Bakke
Premise: It’s Man Camp weekend, the few days every year when brothers Adam, Tim, and Kevin head to the family cabin to memorialize their dad. When they arrive to discover their mom with some new guy she apparently plans on marrying, the trip becomes a wild test to determine his worthiness.
What does it take to be a “man” and how does one measure his masculinity? In the case of the three brothers in Man Camp, it takes a lot of death-defying activities and living up to the shadow cast by the memory of the most manly man who ever manned in the history of mankind.
The brothers who take the surprise of their mother’s new beau as a signal to get rid of him over their annual “man camp” weekend are hilarious and have terrific chemistry. Tim (Scott Kruse) is the wildcard, perpetual college student/frat president who devises a number of traps for their prospective step-father that have to constantly be reigned in by his siblings. Kevin (Erik Stocklin) is the sweet, innocent adult who still lives at home in the garage and dreams of fantasy encounters. Adam (Daniel Cummings) is the straight man of the trio and the one who appears to have his life most together. However, for all his self-awareness and accomplishment, Adam still holds the memory of his father in such a high regard that any perceived “replacement” father has to live up to massive standards and intense scrutiny.
Pete Gardner is a delight as Alan, the brothers’ future step-father, as he contends with their warped sense of masculinity and occasionally dangerous antics. Alan’s scrapbooking, bird-watching, and overall kind-hearted nature is in stark contrast to the brothers’ ridiculous machismo. But the combination works like gangbusters as the group embark on their hijinks throughout the film.
Man Camp is resplendent with hilarious one-liners and bits ranging from Tim telling Adam that he had a chance with Adam’s wife before she “family zoned” him to Kevin’s unique bartender job that boils down to him simply buying booze for teenagers.
The movie is mostly light-hearted but it also spends time grappling with topics like masculine insecurity, arrested development, and the fear of change. When the film gets serious, the performances adjust accordingly and the tone of the film itself shifts effortlessly. Toward the end of the film, there are revelations made and pedestals dismantled that work well, for the most part. The dramatic moments work really well by and large because the characters are so likable despite their very distinct flaws.
There’s a turn late in the movie regarding Alan that didn’t quite hit for me, however. And the resolution of Tim’s romantic subplot left a bit to be desired. But aside from those minor quibbles, Man Camp is a very fun comedy that delivers on laughs and a surprising bit of heart.
Showtimes at HIFF28
- Friday, Oct. 18 – 2:50pm – AMC Castleton Square 14
- Saturday, Oct. 19 – 2:45pm – AMC Traders Point 12