Camp Cucamonga

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Camp Cucamonga Movie Poster Image
Silly but sweet '90s summer camp movie has some bullying.
  • NR
  • 2004
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Be yourself. True friendship overcomes the shallowness of cliquedom. Summer camp can be a great place to make friends and learn about yourself.

Positive role models & representations

The characters are comedic summer camp archetypes, but when one of the campers runs away after receiving a letter informing her that her parents are getting a divorce, the rest of the campers work together to find her and be her friend in her moment of need.

Violence

Water balloons are thrown on a school bus en route to a summer camp. A water balloon flies out the window and hits someone riding on the back of a motorcycle. A man drives a golf cart in reverse off of a dock into a lake. A bully slaps a camper on the back of the head.

Sex

Boy campers take turns using a telescope to spy on girl campers in their bikinis. They later sneak under the hut where the girls take showers and attempt to stick a video camera through a grate as the girls are shown showering from the neck up. Aside from this, there are moments capturing the early tween dating scene -- dances, talk of summer camp crushes, triple dates into the woods.

Language

"Crap." Some taunting -- "bonehead" and insults about how characters dress.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

A man lights a cigar for another man.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Camp Cucamonga is a 1990 TV movie featuring almost every tween TV star from the era, plus Jennifer Anniston in her first movie role. The summer camp movie is filled with standard summer camp hijinks -- bumbling camp leaders, self-assured teen camp counselors, and precocious tween campers taking their first awkward steps into dating. In spite of the big hair and the acid-washed denim (to say nothing of the very dated rap montage), the tweens in the movie behave like modern tweens, for better or worse -- there is some name-calling and taunting -- but the movie does try to tackle weightier topics like divorce, acceptance beyond cliques, and the ups and downs of growing up.

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What's the story?

Colonel Marv (John Ratzenberger) runs CAMP CUCAMONGA, and he wants the camp to be perfect when the inspector of Campgrounds of America arrives. His daughter Ava (Jennifer Aniston) wants to date a "one-woman man," and doubts she'll find him among the counselors around her. The boy campers want to go on dates with the girl campers, and the girl campers want to go on dates with the boy campers. And everybody wants to win the end-of-summer camp competitions -- be it softball or pie eating. There is also a rap video, where Jaleel White leads the campers in extolling the virtues of Camp Cucamonga through rap and dance reminiscent of the Young MC classic "Bust a Move."

Is it any good?

Beyond the hijinks, this movie does not shy away from weightier topics like divorce and fitting in among your peers, which means that it's not entirely a silly campground romp. But then again, there's an unintentionally hilarious rap montage thrown in the middle, where Jaleel White and the other campers shake their Guess jeans and their side-ponytails like they're in a Kid-N-Play video. Which means, all-in-all, that this movie is a campy camp movie, definitely dated but not without charm.

Besides being Jennifer Aniston's first credited movie role, Camp Cucamonga is a veritable who's-who of late-'80s/early-'90s tween stars representing the hit shows of that time, everything from Full House to The Wonder Years, Head of the Class to Family Matters, to say nothing of the brief appearances of Sherman Helmsley from The Jeffersons and Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy. All-star cast aside, Camp Cucamonga is essentially standard summer camp fare a la Meatballs, where the authority figures are bumbling, the teen camp leaders cool (in a 1990 mullet-hair kind of way), and the campers themselves are tweens taking their first awkward steps into dating.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies set in summer camps. How is Camp Cucamonga similar and different -- in terms of characters, action, story?

  • Despite the dated fashions, does the behavior of the different cliques in the movie ring true?

  • Did some characters seem one-dimensional or stereotypical? Who seemed to grow and change over the course of the movie?

Movie details

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