85 mins., 2006
As a parent watching this documentary about a group of kids who attend a three-week sleepaway summer camp in Wisconsin, I’d say the general reaction could go one of two ways. Either, ”I am never, ever, sending my kid off to overnight camp!” or, ”Quick, dear! Call Camp Minniwhatsit, and tell them we’re picking up Junior tonight!”
It’s not so much that frightening things happen at Swift Nature Camp — on the contrary — it’s the utter boredom that can be seen on the face of each camper. The filmmakers do an excellent job of capturing this and other sweetly mundane aspects of camp life; you can practically taste those burnt wieners or hear those mosquitoes buzzing in your ear. Which is not to say there aren’t exciting moments. Which cabin will get stuck with the name Black-capped Chickadee? (And which will get the much coveted — and much cooler — moniker, Rockdove?) Who will win the heated canned-vegetable-in-a-backpack relay race? And, most important, who will be the recipient of the next wedgie?
But it’s the quieter moments that are the true gems here, the ones that can make your heart feel for these kids — the ones who cry for their parents, the ones who think they’ll never fit in anywhere (like the poor soul who takes off on a self-isolating canoe trek to another campsite), and the ones who, even away at camp, must take their medication (for a number of disorders, including depression and ADHD). There’s even a counselor who admits to being burned out and hating her colleague.
There are no tidy endings here as the campers say their goodbyes, and I rather like that — cause that is real life, not the manufactured feelings of reality TV. We’ve got the chocolate and graham crackers, who’s bringing the marshmallows? B
Recommended ages: 7 and up
Yo Gabba Gabba!
Premieres Aug. 20 at 10:30 a.m. ET; on Noggin and Nick Jr.
One of the things that is so draining about parenting is the repetition of it all: Brush your teeth…Eat your vegetables…Stop trying to hang your sister upside down. Even we don’t want to hear our own voices anymore. So imagine those kinds of little reminders, only set to an electronica beat. Add some strange sets and a bunch of DayGlo colors, and — presto! — you’ve conjured up this new live-action music series for preschoolers. Watch (in horror) as a robot and four oversize monster puppets (a Cyclops, a flower bubble, a cat-dragon, and a green…thing) awkwardly try to impart such life lessons as eating a well-balanced diet. Also on hand to show that they, too, can let loose are some well-meaning guest stars (like Elijah Wood, who demonstrates puppet movements in ”Dancey Dance”).
But the frenzied atmosphere adds up to not much more than a bizarre techno party for tots — one that may have them getting that glazed-over I-need-water look by the end of the night, er, morning. D