Review: ‘Camp Hideout,’ starring Corbin Bleu, Ethan Drew, Amanda Leighton and Christopher Lloyd

October 30, 2023

by Carla Hay

Amanda Leighton, Corbin Bleu, Justin Sterner, Christopher Lloyd and Ethan Drew in “Camp Hideout” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)

“Camp Hideout”

Directed by Sean Olson

Culture Representation: Taking place in Nashville, the comedy film “Camp Hideout” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A teenage rebel, who’s in the foster care system, escapes from two criminals he’s been working with, by going into hiding in a summer camp for teens. 

Culture Audience: “Camp Hideout” will appeal primarily to people who like watching faith-based comedy movies that are derivative and treat audiences like idiots.

Ethan Drew and Jenna Raine Simmons in “Camp Hideout” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)

“Camp Hideout” is nothing but cringeworthy clichés of summer camp comedies, with some ripoff ideas thrown in from 1990’s “Home Alone.” The jokes and scenarios are staler than camp cookout food that was left to rot in a previous century.

Directed by Sean Olson, “Camp Hideout” has a very weak screenplay written by Kat Olson, C. Neil Davenport and Dave DeBorde. The movie’s simplistic plot is stretched to the breaking point, until it becomes a repetitive loop of predictable nonsense, like tangled threads that just make a mess and take up space. The film’s main characters are an awkward mix of extremes: either “too good to be true” saccharine sweet or “sinners” who need redemption.

The beginning of “Camp Hideout” (which takes place in Nashville, where the movie was filmed) shows troubled foster kid Noah (played by Ethan Drew), who’s 14 years old, getting a lecture from his social worker Selena (played by Amanda Leighton), who is preparing to accompany Noah on a church camping trip for adolescents. The name of the camp destination is Deer Run Camp, where Selena is a camp counselor. Noah has had a history of getting into trouble with the law.

Selena comments to Noah about this camping trip, “This is your last shot. If you fail here, they’ll sent you to [juvenile detention].” It turns out that Noah hasn’t quite left his law-breaking lifestyle behind. A flashback to the recent past shows that Noah was working with two brother thieves named Willis Talari (played by Joshua Childs) and Charlie Talari (played by Josh Inocalla), who recruited Noah to help them rob a wealthy real estate mogul named Brooks Brady.

How did they commit this robbery? Charlie delivered a giant potted plant to Brooks’ office. Noah was hiding inside the pot and was instructed to let Willis and Charlie in the office when no one was looking. However, the robbery got interrupted when Noah was almost caught. A cop chased after Noah on the street, but Noah was able to outrun the cop and get away. Noah saw the bus leaving for the camp and jumped on the bus in the nick of time.

Meanwhile, Willis and Charlie were also able to escape from the botched robbery and are looking for Noah, because he has an item that the brothers desperately want from Noah. (That item is revealed toward the end of the movie.) It should come as no surprise that the Talari brothers find out that Noah has been hiding out at Deer Run Camp.

Deer Run Camp has the usual stereotypes of “kids at camp” movies: There’s the overly perky camper Becky (played by Isabelle Almoyan), who immediately annoys Noah. There’s the socially awkward nerd Oliver (played by Tyler Kowalski), who proudly announces to Noah: “I’m the queen of all the camp rules.” There’s the rich kid bully Trey (played by Luca Alexander), who predictably targets Oliver and newcomer Noah for mean-spirited harassment.

There’s the grouchy authority figure Falco (played by Christopher Lloyd), the owner of Deer Run Camp, who despises children. Falco prefers the company of his German Shepherd named Lazurus, who’s in the movie and has more personality than most of the human characters. There’s the friendly camp counselor Jake (played by Corbin Bleu), who becomes somewhat of an older brother/mentor figure to Noah. There’s the “nice girl” love interest Mallory (played by Jenna Raine Simmons), who says and does all the right things that “good girls” do when they’re supposed to help “bad boys” turn their lives around.

The rest of the children at this camp are not given distinct personalities and are just there as side characters. “Camp Hideout” has a lot of silly slapstick comedy involving food fights and game challenges, with hardly any excitement or originality in these scenes. And when thieving brothers Willis and Charlie inevitably track down Noah at this camp, the movie turns into an unimpressive series of “Home Alone”-style booby traps.

“Camp Hideout” has some poorly written aspects that make no sense. For example, Falco says he doesn’t like technology because his dog Lazurus was once electrocuted during an electrical storm. Does Falco not understand that an electrical storm has to do with nature, not technology? It’s also revealed near the end who Trey’s father is, in a very mushy plot development.

There are absolutely no surprises in “Camp Hideout,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if a story has charismatic characters and engaging dialogue. But so much of “Camp Hideout” has uninteresting characters and terribly moronic dialogue, with a lot of bad acting to match. For a movie that has some moralistic preaching about personal excellence, “Camp Hideout” is far from excellent in how it delivers its intended message.

Roadside Attractions released “Camp Hideout” in select U.S. cinemas on September 15, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on October 24, 2023.

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