Theater Camp (2023) – Movie Review

Theater Camp

Our review of the new mockumentary Theater Camp.

Have you ever wished there were more mockumentary movies? Not just episodic workplace sitcoms, more like a good mockumentary film such as the classic Spinal Tap, or something more modern like Popstar, perhaps an irreverent genre-bending mockumentary like What We Do In The Shadows. Mockumentaries are strange species in the movie ecosystem. There are only a few of them. However, those few are LOL funny, and this year’s Theater Camp is a hilarious addition to that exclusive list of funny mockumentaries. 

The first full-length feature film directed by Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman combines a cinema verite style documentary with a story about a theater camp in upstate NY after the owner is left in a coma by strobe lights. This year, it’s up to Joan’s slow-witted “crypto-bro” son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) to keep the small theatre camp afloat, and platonic codependents Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) and Amos (Ben Platt) are on their own to direct a play based on the beloved teacher Joan’s life. 

A summer camp movie in the spirit of 1979’s Meatballs in a post-Wet Hot American Summer and But I’m a Cheerleader world. Though not as irreverent as Wet Hot, it embraces the parodying and reference to camp movies with the queerness represented in Cheerleader. It does have its share of dirty jokes and manages to keep the delightfulness of a film about friendship, love, and performing arts that’s exhilarating and inspiring. 

Theater Camp

The performances are not summer camp theater level. Ayo Edebiri (OMG, she’s everywhere) steals the screen the few minutes she’s in. Her performance is as extraordinary as always, and even in minor roles like this one, we can tell why she’s all over some of the best movies (and TV series, The Bear, duh) of the year. Ben Platt is also outstanding as a codependent best friend. His character will keep you wondering about his real feelings and sexuality throughout the film. But the one actor taking the trophy must be Jimmy Tatro as Troy. He is so charismatic and so believable that I went to YouTube and Instagram to check if his character exists. Every movie should have him as the “influencer, crypto, and business bro.” He’s on point in that role, and I’d like to see what other filmmakers do with him. 

Theater Camp is a feel-good story about weird kids participating in a scrappy summer camp play while adults around them are inspired by their spirit. Having fun and loving what we do. By saying kids, I include Troy, “the bro.” So maybe it’s good that we have just a few mockumentaries. Movies like this should be just a few, so we can keep wishing they were legit documentaries in a better and funnier world. 

Theater Camp is available on Hulu.

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