Friday, June 1, 2012

Party Camp (1987)

It’s funny how life works. Just last Saturday, I was browsing the web for eighties comedies. I wound up not purchasing anything, but did have a few films jotted down. One of them being “Party Camp”. The next day, I go to my local video store and what do I find? “Party Camp”! I snatched it up and immediately popped it into my VHS player when I got home.

I know not to expect much from this subgenre. All I want is an exotic location, likable characters, buxom babes, a colorful attitude and a sufficient laugh quotient. “Party Camp” delivered on all fronts! One could argue that a camp isn’t exotic, but I’m a sucker for the setting. It was a common area for eighties films, particularly in the horror genre. The first film to come to mind is “Friday the 13th”, which gets referenced here.

The story itself is simple. Jerry Riviera (Andrew Ross) takes a job as a counselor at Camp Chipmunk. He expects it to be a fun experience, but shortly discovers the place is run like a boot camp. Sarge (Peter Jason) rules with an iron fist. At least, that’s what screewriter Paul Brown would like us to believe. I have a feeling his story arc got lost in the shuffle in Gary Graver’s direction, as he’s not focused on that much.

To be honest, outside of a few jokes (such as the sign reading “Your best isn’t good enough”), Camp Chipmunk never feels like a military training camp. Graver constantly has the characters bring this up, but the place feels like your average summer camp. Various activities such as hiking and volleyball are prevalent and everybody seems to be having a good time. It just doesn’t live up to Jerry’s version of partying (drugs, alcohol and parties are prohibited).

It may be for the best that Graver toned the strict nature down. It skips over the laborious “good hearted guy overcomes evil hierarchy” aspect and jumps right to the zany fun. Making up for the lack of Sarge is an abundance of fun stock characters. Tad (Kirk Cribb) is the jock asshole with an airhead girlfriend, Dyanne Stein (Jewel Shepard); Heather Morris (Kerry Brennan), the girl of Jerry’s dreams (she’s on the brochure which prompted him to take the gig); Nurse Brenda (April Wayne), the kinky nurse who loves to inject people with needles. Jerry’s gang of misfits that he leads are the Squirrels. They’re filled with the technical wizard, the poor kid, the horny one (well, hornier than the rest) and the gun nut They square off Tad’s honchos, the Falcons. All the while, they play pranks on Sarge and the camp owner Mrs. Beadle (Cherie Franklin), who has Sarge dress up as a fly and whips him with a flyswatter. You read that right.

That’s the essence of the plot. The underdogs, Squirrels, combat against the jocks, Falcons. It’s a streamlined story to balance the jokes and gags on. There’s also a slew of pop culture references, from “The Love Boat” to “The Twilight Zone” to the Four Horsemen (which made me mark). There’s one long “Rambo” reference revolving around the gun nut. There’s a funny gag where he brings a rocket launcher to a shooting range.

The only thing that really matters in a film like this if it’s funny. As long as there’s a good amount of jokes that work, it’s worth a watch. In the case of “Party Camp”, there’s more than enough! Some jokes get beaten into the ground (such as the child being pulled by the ear by Sarge), but it’s all done with a jovial attitude. Like most eighties comedies, the tone is light, making for an easy watch. This isn’t high art, but it’s a fun side attraction!

MVT: The genial tone. The film (despite being raunchy) is light and fluffy and easy to digest thanks to this.

Make or Break: Honestly, it’s hard to pick a certain scene. They all flow nicely together. With that being said, I’ll pick the opening, which has Jerry fantasizing about his dream woman, then being awoken by a school bus that nearly runs him over.

Final Score: 7/10

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