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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Camp Cool Kids is a story that is set in a real-life, functioning Louisiana Christian camp. It's about confronting fear, coping with bullies, and confirming religious principles. The two central boys, one teen and one tween, are still grieving for their recently deceased dad and struggling with a move to a new community when they're sent to Camp Istrouma for a two-week summer session. While the issues are serious ones, the treatment of them is upbeat and straightforward, and relies on humor as well as pathos. The bullying includes insults, intimidation, and some nasty pranks -- including one in which kids endure the always-good-for-a-laugh stomach catastrophes. Fine for middle grades and tweens as a simple, religious, and moralizing tale with obvious outcomes.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
Young Spence (Connor Rosen) and his older brother, Zach (Logan Shroyer), have had a rough go when CAMP COOL KIDS begins. Following the death of their beloved dad, they've moved with their mom to their grandfather's house. Grandpa (the always reliable Michael Gross) is a wise, loving mentor to his grandsons, especially Spencer, who's timid and fearful and feels very much alone in his new Louisiana community. But summer camp is coming, and the grown-ups think two weeks at Camp Istrouma, a well-respected Christian overnight camp, will be just the place for the boys to meet new friends and have some fun. Spence isn't so sure. And at first, he's right. Dean, the king of the camp bullies, is delighted to have a new skittish boy to intimidate. Saving the first day for Spence is finding cabin mates -- The Armadillos -- who are inclusive and warm-hearted. Unfortunately, Zach, asked by his concerned mom to look out for his little brother, doesn't initially see Dean as a villain and enthusiastically joins the bully's clan. Despite assurances of a sensitive counselor, Spence's worries escalate when camp activities frighten him, and Dean and company come up with increasingly embarrassing pranks. As the central event of their two-week sojourn, the Camp Istrouma Games, gets closer, Spencer and his buddies must endure the bullies' antics, fend them off, and find a way to assert their own specialness.
Is it any good?
As summer camp movies go, this one is colorful and spirited and has some quirkily fun performances that will appeal to kids, especially those who enjoy happy endings that rely on faith. Watching red-haired, freckled Connor Rosen's sweet, thoughtful performance (though sometimes so soft-spoken it's difficult to hear) is a treat. Other young actors, most notably Tyree Brown, who was so good in the Parenthood series, bring natural joyfulness to their roles. Louisiana's well-established Camp Istrouma is a beautiful, camera-ready place, and director Lisa Arnold makes the most of its lushness. It's doubtful, however, that their real-life camp activities are as unstructured, or that the bullying that takes place would go unnoticed and/or unpunished. Camp Cool Kids is a crisp, competent production; still, don't expect surprises or original emotional insights.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the bullies in Camp Cool Kids. Why is important not to "become a jerk just because someone is being a jerk to you"? How does your family, school, and/or community deal with bullying?
What is the meaning of the declaration "Don't make them like you -- let them like you!"? Give an example of how this might work.
- On DVD or streaming: July 11, 2017
- Cast: Connor Rosen, Logan Shroyer, Michael Gross
- Director: Lisa Arnold
- Studio: Vision FIlms
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Communication, Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: November 12, 2019
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