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‘THEATER CAMP’ HAS SURPRISES IN STORE

This endearing faux documentary will appeal to anyone who has been, or known, or given birth to a theater kid (as my wife and I did). They are a breed apart and cling to one another like long-lost cousins who have just met after an extended separation. Self-described theater kids Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman have taken a surprisingly farcical approach to their depiction of a summer camp for the breed. It’s a refreshing idea that propels this nearly-believable film and offers good parts to all of them.

Amy Sedaris plays the founder of the camp in upstate New York who is sidelined by a poorly-timed stroke. Her friends and surrogate family immediately pitch in to make sure that Adirond Acts continues business as usual. The monkey wrench in that plan is her addle-brained son (YouTube sensation Jimmy Tatro), who has no discernable talent and even less interest in the world of theater. The narrative unfolds in bursts of activity, punctuated by often-hilarious but deadpan title cards.

The supporting cast includes Ayo Edebiri (of The Bear) and Caroline Aaron (late of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), who bring their own comic energy to the proceedings. There is an easygoing feel to Theater Camp that I found appealing, even as the storyline dares to defy credibility. It’s the end result of friends coming together to make a movie about something they’ve all shared and want to let us in on. I’m glad they did.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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