After Joan, the founder of a summer theater camp, falls into a coma, her son Troy (Jimmy Tatro), a man-child who knows nothing about this universe, arrives to try to keep the place alive. working with camp leaders and teachers, including Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon).

The bet was to create a mockumentary, a fiction that resembles reality, with a group of children as co-stars (a challenge in itself) and a narrative as offbeat as it is fun. The desire was to put forward this world of theater and musical comedy where children find a place that accepts them, where they can let themselves be all that they are. We are dealing with a kind of homage to this subculture, which the creators of the film know well.

The intention is beautiful and results on a few occasions in creative scenes, some moving, others comical. But a clear desire to show the banality of the life of normal people without adding artifice sometimes causes lengths and platitudes that cost this film dearly with undeniable potential. We also regret that some characters have not been developed enough, despite, we repeat, an obvious potential – including that of Ayo Edebiri, who plays a new teacher from the camp who lied on her CV and has no knowledge in what she teaches. The children, camp students for whom the theater is the center of their lives, are all portrayed by fantastic young actors.

If all is not perfect in Theater Camp, it should still be noted that his appearance at the Sundance festival at the start of the year allowed him to be spotted by the production company Searchlight Pictures, which brought him to the big screen in an international deployment.

Built on a large part of improvisation, Theater Camp is a film as fun as it seems incomplete. If the acting of Ben Platt and Molly Gordon (who also co-directs, with Nick Lieberman) is irreproachable, some will perhaps have the impression of being left unsatisfied, as if the full potential of the film had not been reached. By relying on partially pre-written scenes and letting the inspiration of the moment guide their shooting, the filmmakers have allowed for very natural passages (the “documentary” aesthetic also helps), which make it easy to adhere to the story we are told.

Several characters are very endearing, the format is a well-used idea, and the comedy moments that work are tasty. Theater Camp brings smiles, but too rarely really laughs. The screenplay was co-written by Gordon, Platt, along with Nick Lieberman and Noah Galvin.

The best moment of this feature film, which unfortunately extends a little too much in its last third, is at the very end. While the ending is somewhat believable, another part of the ending is utterly stunning: camp’s late-summer production AdironACTS, a musical based on the life of camp founder Joan. The songs and interpretations make it a key moment in the film, a moment that we never imagined possible, given the tensions that build up throughout the summer between the main characters (Rebecca-Diane and Amos are responsible for writing the late summer play).

We are under the spell after this long scene where the musical is shown almost in its entirety. Just for those minutes of pure theatrical enjoyment (and a few more, too!), Theater Camp is ultimately worth it.