You don’t need tents or counselors to get the camp experience this summer
Summer camp will look different for many this year. While Zoom activities and modified group activities could keep kids occupied until the school year begins, you can enjoy a traditional camp experience in the movies. These five streaming movies may make you fondly remember your own camp experience or convince you that camp is a terrifying place and you’re better off making s’mores at home.
Netflix: Rim of the World
After losing his dad in a fire Alex (Jack Gore) is afraid of everything. To get him out of the house, and hopefully convince him to open up to others again, his mother signs Alex up for Rim of the World summer camp.
Unsure at first, Alex finds it doesn’t matter when his camp (and the rest of the world) is attacked by aliens. He falls in with a group of misfits: ZhenZhen (Miya Cech) a nearly mute girl with surprising skills; Dariush (Benjamin Flores Jr.), a rich kid who tries to push everyone around; and Gabriel (Alessio Scalzotto), who knows the woods. The crew find an object that might help turn the tide of the alien invasion, but can they get it down the mountain in time?
Rim of the World is a salute to 1980s camp and adventure flicks, but without the racism and sexism that makes rewatching those movies…upsetting. Director McG throws a bunch of familiar clichés into the story—misfit kids with a mission, indestructible aliens, incompetent government officials—that make the movie predictable but still fun. The star of the film, however, is Cech, who steals all of her scenes as the quiet and mysterious little oddball who seems to have more military tactical abilities than the actual soldiers.
If you’re in the mood for a nostalgic camp movie, but don’t want to think about some of the jokes in Meatballs that didn’t age too well, Rim of the World offers nostalgia without the cringe factor.
Fair Action Adventure * PG-13 * 98 mins.
Disney+: The Parent Trap
When Susan (Hayley Mills) arrives at her favorite summer camp, she is disturbed to find that a new girl, Sharon (also Mills) has her face. Though the girls are identical, they have extremely different personalities. They are mortal enemies until they discover they aren’t identical strangers but twins who were separated when their parents divorced.
Soon, an idea springs to mind: the girls will switch places when camp ends, and then attempt to reunite their parents (Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith). Can the two girls get their parents back together and live together finally? Or will their plans be spoiled by stubborn adults?
There is a perfectly lovely remake of The Parent Trap made in 1998 starring Lindsay Lohan, but for my money the 1961 original can’t be beaten. First, the movie features screen legend Maureen O’Hara as the girls’ mother. Secondly, in a time before CGI, director David Swift had to cover half the film, shoot Mills once, then switch the covering and shoot the scene with Mills on the other side of the set. It’s a pretty seamless effect, with only a few goofs—see if you can spot Mills’ arm disappearing when it crosses center frame during the song-and-dance number.
If you’re feeling nostalgic for Disney movies or the simple pleasures of sleepaway camp, The Parent Trap will make you want to “get together” with your old bunkmates.
Great Family Film * G * 127 mins.
Hulu: Dirty Dancing
Baby Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is ready to spend another boring summer at a Catskills resort with her family. Her days of crafting and calisthenics are interrupted when she meets handsome dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze). Feeling stifled by her life, Baby becomes involved with Johnny, volunteering to be his dance partner when his usual partner is put on bedrest after an abortion.
As Baby learns to dance, she falls deeper in love with Johnny. Can she convince her parents that she’s a grown up ready for a grown up relationship?
Widely considered a classic, Dirty Dancing is probably a staple film for most households. Though this reviewer isn’t a fan of the plot or the acting, she can’t deny she’s the only one of her friend group who didn’t own a VHS copy of this movie and watch it ad nauseam. If you’re a fan of nostalgic 80s soundtracks, camp activities, or Swayze in some impressively tight pants, you’ll have the time of your life with this flick.
Fair Romance * PG-13 * 100 mins.
Prime: Friday the 13th
After a tragedy closed the camp for years, a new owner buys Camp Crystal Lake and plans on opening it. He hires a group of teens to get the place ready. There’s only one problem—the coeds keep disappearing. Are teens just an unreliable workforce, or is there something more sinister happening?
Want to make sure your kids never want to go to camp again? This is the movie that will make those cancelled camp plans seem like a stroke of luck. The movie that introduced the concept of Jason to the masses (but you’ll have to wait until the third movie to actually see the man himself don the hockey mask), Friday the 13th isn’t classic cinema, but it is the foundation for a whole genre of films.
Warning: this isn’t a movie you show to little kids. But your teens might get a kick out of this retro thriller. It also features one of the first screen appearances of Kevin Bacon. Keep in mind there’s plenty of nudity and gore (crafted by the legendary FX master Tom Savini). If you’re looking for a great scary movie night with a camp theme, Friday the 13th is a classic.
Good Slasher * R * 95 mins.
Kanopy: The Florida Project
For six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), life is a summer camp. Living just outside the theme parks of Orlando in a long-term residence motel. Moonee’s young mother loves her, but is largely absent as she tries to party and scam money from tourists. The only person who offers her stability is the motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe), who watches over all the small kids left to run wild in the shadows of Disney and Universal Studios.
Though technically not a camp movie, The Florida Project beautifully captures the sort of free-spirited summers children dream of experiencing. Moonee is free to adventure wherever she wants, leading her friends into trouble with a charming smile on her face. The movie hinges on two brilliant performances, one from Dafoe and one from newcomer Prince. Her take on Moonee is beguiling and heartbreaking all at once.
Keep in mind that though Moonee herself is young, this is a film best enjoyed by older viewers. The Florida Project is a modern classic about poverty and the magic of being a child.
Great Drama * R * 111 mins.