Reviewed July 14th, 2002 by Dan Jones
It is really somewhat sad because I loved Heathers.
Happy Campers is not a bad film when compared to others in its genre (Not Another Teen Movie), yet it doesn’t really go so far as to be standout... it just kind of is... for 94 minutes.
Written and directed by Daniel Walters of aforementioned Heathers fame, Happy Campers is a teen-comedy-esque summer camp film that never really tries to go anywhere. We get a fairly standard movie story line of teenagers running amuck (this time at a summer camp) after their adult overseer kicks the can (or in this case gets struck by lightning). While it seems the young cast really has energy about the film, it seems their talent is wasted on the material at hand. Nothing more then your typical teen characters are here; we have seen their types all before in teen movies past and present. Perhaps the writing is a bit darker and biting then other films in the genre (not up to par with Heathers in that category though), the story just does not grip the viewer. You will probably recognize some of the cast, namely Brad Renfro, Emily Bergl, James King, and Dominique Swain (Lolita).
For a straight to video release Happy Campers is better then the typical fare. The film probably would have done all right in theaters, if for no other reason that the teenage viewing public seems to eat up just about anything directed at their age group, no matter the quality. Happy Campers has its moments; I laughed here and there...yet I cannot help but think it could have been so much better, probably due to my love of Daniel Walters’ first film, Heathers.
On DVD, Happy Campers is given to us in either 1.85 anamorphic widescreen or full frame. As with just about all the newer Newline transfers, Happy Campers is given an excellent presentation. The transfer is clean of dust and dirt and has great detail and crispness when considering the budget of the film. Color and contrast is right on as well as deep darks and blacks. Little edge enhancement was noticed and I could not find any instances of digital compression artifacting. A fine transfer for a straight to video, low-budget film.
Audio wise, Newline has given us a very solid 5.1 Dolby Digital mix as well as a down-mixed 2.0 track. The 5.1 track is remarkably good for the budget of the film with some nice rear effects throughout and great clarity and depth across the front end. The LFE also kicks in here and there making for a quite impressive audio presentation for a mainly dialogue film. Newline has definitely put some time into this one.
Not surprisingly for a straight to video release, no extras have been included on Happy Campers. Some commentary or at least an interview from Walters would have been nice though; I’d be interested to see how looks at this piece of work.
Overall Happy Campers is not the best teen flick ever; nor is it really standout in any way, shape, or form. In the teen comedy arena, we have seen this all before; some of the script works, some falls flat on its face. If you are a huge fan of Daniel Walters then I would check this one out. If not, you are not missing anything. A rental at best.
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