Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Camp Cucamonga ... oh yeah, oh yeah ...

You know, I should've been smart and just stuck to the plan. It's time for another installment of Bad Movies A to Z! Today's movie is sponsored by the letter C. Originally, I was going to review "Colossus: The Forbin Project." I put it in my Netflix queue and actually watched it.

Alas, it was a pretty good movie. Not a long of bang-pow-boot-to-the-head action, but a nice, thoughtful sci-fi flick. Kinda reminded me of "The Andromeda Strain" in tone.

Well, it's a lot harder to bust on a movie when it has more than one redeeming quality.

So I went to the Siftin' Movie Archive to find another suitable title. The Child? No. Challenge of the Superfriends? Too long.

And so today's movie is the 1990 TV-movie classic, "Camp Cucamonga."

God help us all.

Today's movie in a nutshell: Kids go to a summer camp and do things that kids do at summer camp when they are on TV.

The story: None.

Just kidding! "Col. Marv" Schecter (John Ratzenberger, who gets top billing in this movie) begins his first year as head of Camp Cucamonga. It's his dream to run a summer camp. In the off season, he's an accountant.

As the film begins, the campers are on their way to camp. I think I saw another bus, but it doesn't matter, because we're focusing on the one driven by a young Jennifer Aniston. While she's driving, we're introduced to our campers, who, in lieu of personalities, are given stereotypical personality traits.

It's like they took the characters from "Saved By the Bell," threw them in a blender and put the pieces back together. So while you have Max Plotkin ("The Wonder Years"' Josh Saviano), an Screech retread, the other semi-main character, Lindsey Scott (Danica McKellar, also of "The Wonder Years"), is a tough metalhead whose parents are getting divorced. No SBTB connection there, you're thinking.

Ah, but what about that weird half-season of their senior year when tough-chick Tori (she of the perpetual leather jacket) transferred to Bayside?

No, I didn't watch the show. I don't know what you're talking about.

Stop looking at me like that.

Anyhow, we're introduced to them in short order, and it really doesn't matter what they're like, because the whole novelty of the movie is that it is populated by your favorite TV stars.

They used to do this once a year or so -- just lump together a bunch of people from different shows on different networks and put them in an innocuous piece of fluff.

Sort of like "Love Boat."

They're actually more interesting to watch now, just for the "before they were famous" factor. When I saw "Friends" for the first time, I recognized Jennifer Aniston as "that cute chick from 'Camp Cucamonga' who wasn't Winnie Cooper."

Meanwhile, Camp Cucamonga's handyman (who also showed up as a teacher on "Saved By the Bell") and Col. Marv have a spat, and the handyman walks, even though there are plenty of repairs that need to be done.

You see, the camp is due to be inspected to earn its accreditation and stuff needs to be fixed before the inspector shows up.

I know you're not supposed to think with movies like this, but even when this was first on, I wondered why the repairs weren't already finished before camp started. And it gets worse later.

Col. Marv calls another handyman to make emergency repairs before the inspection, which will be very soon.

The campers get set up, and there's the "meet cute" between Roger (Brian Robbins, "Head of the Class"), a cocky counselor, and Ava (Jennifer Aniston, who was on NBC's "Ferris Bueller" show). I wasn't about to stop the tape and rewind it enough times to transcribe this perfectly, but you know how it goes:

Col. Marv greets the campers and looks like a doofus.

Roger: Who is this doofus?

Ava: My father.


In the cabins, Max is the outcast of his bunk, and Lindsey doesn't get along with her bunkmates, either. Perhaps it's the Motley Crue T-shirt she wears. The unspoken leader of the girls bunk, Amber (Candace Cameron, "Full House") is going out with Frankie (Chad Allen, "Our House"), the golden boy in Max's cabin. Jennifer (Tasha Scott, "Snoops") seems interested in Dennis (Jaleel White, Urkel himself).

Everybody else is there to take up space.

Max tries very hard to befriend Lindsey, but she wants to go back home ASAP. Her parents are getting a divorce, and she feels like she's being punished by being sent to camp.

Meanwhile in the B-plot, Col. Marv is awaiting both the inspector and the handyman. He's pissed that the handyman isn't there yet.

Up drives Herbert Himmel. He's wearing a suit because he just got back from a wedding. So when he finds Col. Marv, Col. Marv assumes that he's the inspector.

I don't know about you, but when I hire someone, I try to get their name. Failing that, I at least find out who they are. But not at Camp Cucamonga. Their dialogue is tailored so that neither will discover this case of mistaken identity.

Col. Marv proceeds with some butt-kissing, trying to delay the "inspector" from finding the stuff that needs repairs.

There are some dumb camp hi-jinks that at least get a few points for trying (sneaking a camera into the girls' shower, etc.), but they only take up as much time as the story demands.

Roger is trying to impress Ava, but she thinks he's a jerk.

To condense a little, the inspector shows up. But he looks a little scruffy because his car broke down. Col. Marv, thinking he's the tardy handyman, admonishes him and tells him to get to work without asking who he is. Col. Marv has to be this dumb; otherwise the plot wouldn't move forward and there'd be no false sense of drama.

My biggest problem with this movie at this point was that I was sitting with my leg folded underneath me, so when I got up to get something to drink, both my leg and half of my butt had fallen asleep.

But enough about me.

SOme of the guys sneak off with some girls to enjoy a private meal -- steaks stolen from Col. Marv's kitchen. Max insists on tagging along because he supposedly knows how to cook them. He gets Lindsey to go with him. He burns the steaks into oblivion and gets everyone lost to boot.

After a big search, they're found by Col. Marv. When they get back to camp, the inspector reveals his true identity, and the camp's future is in danger, as is the health of real handyman, who has been enjoying the treatment he's been getting.

The kids feel a little responsible and, at Roger's suggestion, decide to contact the head of the inspection agency. The letters are getting nowhere until Lindsey comes up with what is probably the best idea ever: a rap video.

No sooner said than done. Dennis and Jennifer handle the main chores of the Camp Cucamonga rap, which sounds ripped off of inspired by "Bust a Move" by Young MC.

I hope that someday Jennifer Aniston develops a cure for cancer or something equally important, because I want a clip from this video to accompany all the news stories.

She doesn't have to sing, but she's in there, busting a move.

Well, the inspector loves the video and decides to give the camp one more chance. Yay! Lindsey is getting more popular with Frankie, and that bothers Amber, who reveals to the girls in the cabin that Lindsey has been sending letters to herself to make it appear that she'd been getting mail from home.

Except when she reads the letter, it's really from Lindsey's mom. Her parents are really getting a divorce.


She bolts for the bus stop the day the two bunks are supposed to compete together in the last event of the Battle of the Bunks. If they win the baseball game, they win the whole battle. Decisions, decisions...

Leaving only a few people to play baseball, the main group goes after Lindsey. When Ava and Roger find out they're all gone, their plans are interrupted by the sudden appearance of Lindsey's mom, who arrives unannounced. They find her right before she gets on the bus and convince her to stay.

Our heroes return just in time for the very end of the game. Their team is down by quite a bit, but through hard work, determination and predictable writing, they win.


Max, who hit the winning run, is now Mr. Popular. He tells Lindsey that they can't go steady anymore (even though they weren't anyway), and she humors him. Amber and Frankie also go their separate ways.

I go to the pantry for a snack, but nothing looks good. By the time I get back, the credits are rolling. I hope I didn't miss anything. I doubt it.

Afterthoughts: I don't know that I would invite people over especially to watch this, but it's better than some stuff I've watched (or bought deliberately).

In particular, Jennifer Aniston does fairly well. Aside from appearing in the Camp Cucamonga rap video, she doesn't embarrass herself. Everyone else does okay, too. As best they could with what they had, I guess.

This has been released on DVD, but I watched it on the old-school VHS copy we scored back in the day at Wal-Mart for like $4.88 or something.

I'm a little curious to see another one of these all-star TV-movies. I can remember three off the top of my head: "High School USA," with Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon; "Murder Can Hurt You," a detective spoof with Gavin McLeod and Tony Danza (who doesn't play a guy named Tony for a change -- this time, it's Pony. No kidding.); and "Crash Course," with Alyssa Milano and Tina Yothers. I'm sure they're out there somewhere. Heck, I think I taped "High School USA."

I'll have to look for it in the archives.

Well, that's it for C. Join me again next time (hopefully this year) for Bad Movies A to Z.


  1. You tell me it's terrible - and yet now I feel the need to add it to my Netflix Queue.

  2. duckalicious12:22 AM

    Aha, do you remember Dance 'Til Dawn too? http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0094941/