If you need a swift change from the Dark Matters films, or the very sad films based on true events, “Man Camp” may be the choice at the 26th Austin Film Festival. Nate James Bakke directs the film from a script written by Daniel Cummings, Scott Kruse and Josh Long.
The story is about three brothers who meet one weekend a year to continue a tradition set in motion by their late father who tried his best to show them what it was to be manly, teaching them various activities out in the country. As adults, they are still not ready for their mama, Theresa (Tammy Kaitz), to have a new life, even if it is over a decade ago that she has been alone. The brothers are surprised when they discover mama has a new beau and instead of getting to know him, the decision is made to see if he meets their test to allow him to stay around.
The annual “man camp” weekend continues without mama and many scenes are hilarious and the chemistry among the actors as brothers with different personalities is superb. Tim (Scott Kruse) is the one who has not left college and continues as a fraternity president. His brothers need to keep control of the activities he devises. Kevin (Erik Stocklin) also hasn’t grown up on his own and still lives at mama’s house in the garage. Adam (Daniel Cummings) is married with a child and responsibilities. As the elder brother, Adam’s memory of his dad is so strong, it would be hard for anyone to meet his standards, no matter how nice he is to his mama. All three actors are great in their respective roles of man-child, some more than others.
Pete Gardner (Crazy Ex – Girlfriend) is excellent as Alan, the potential step-father who enjoys scrapbooking, bird-watching, and is an overall good guy, but he is willing to bond with the three brothers through their macho fun – or what he thinks is going to be fun.
The script is mostly humorous (not all the jokes worked for me), but there is plenty of the fear of change evident, as well as masculine insecurity, and man-child actions. The actors also do well with the drama when the story gets serious, especially when they inform their mother of what their perception is of Alan, without allowing him to explain what they think they know to be true.
There’s a resolution to Tim’s romantic subplot that did not feel complete. I am not sure if the whole sub-plot is necessary. “Man Camp” is still a good comedy (I was surprised that I laughed out loud once or twice) that lightened up the mood for viewers.
Check out Austin Film Festival’s full schedule here.