MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
A Week Away, the new faith-based family-friendly film on Netflix, should come with a disclaimer: “The following movie is in no way representative of summer camp, the criminal justice system, typical adolescence, or contemporary popular culture.”
Or: If you are a fourth grader who thought Disney’s High School Musical was too edgy, have I got a film for you.
The movie begins with an opening scene that evokes the current national conversation about law enforcement and white privilege. Will Hawkins (Quinn) is running away from the cops with a guitar in his hand. Although we don’t actually see it, Will had stolen a police car and then abandoned the vehicle. When he is caught, he is handcuffed, taken to the station and then seated across from an officer who reviews Will’s criminal history with some wry humor. (Remember – he stole a police car!) Will is an orphan and has been in and out of trouble for weeks. He is given an ultimatum: Either go to juvenile prison and face charges or attend a week of summer camp, accompanied by Kristen, a Christian social worker (Sherri Shepherd) and her teenage son George (Jahbril Cook).
Off to camp!
And what a strange camp it is! Kids are singing and dancing all over the place and in the midst of this tuneful chaos Will locks eyes with Ashley (Madison) and is instantly smitten. It turns out that Ashley is the daughter of David (David Koechner), the camp director. Ashley has spent the summer doing charity work and is now spending the last week of the season at Camp Weegaway. Ashley is denied the information about Will’s criminal past, even though Kristen, George and David know his backstory.
George is trying to get the nerve to express his feelings for Presley (Kat Conner Sterling), a girl he met at camp a year ago. Conveniently, Ashley and Presley hang out together, too, so this little quartet will have a week to remember.
The main event during the week away are the “Warrior Games”, a competition between rival teams Crimson Angels, Verdes Maximus and Azure Apostles. Actually, this seems to be the only organized event. There are no counselors, no worship services, and no group meetings. There is a great lake with a beach and delicious food. And no one has kitchen duties! (There’s not even a copy of table settings on the wall.)
There are four original songs, but otherwise this is a jukebox musical featuring CCM hits from the 90s and references to John Hughes films from the 80s (with a nod to Braveheart and Apocalypse Now). So, I’m thinking perhaps the target audience for A Week Away are...parents in their fifties? If this is the case, their children would be off to college or living on their own by now.
The filmmakers took great pains to choose the songs of Michael W. Smith, Steve Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant and Audio Adrenaline with the least overt references to God. (Amy even makes a quick cameo appearance in the movie and then shows up in the phony “blooper reel” during the closing credits to say: “Wow! I’m in a dance musical movie! I can’t believe it!”)
There is no swearing, nudity, or sexual chemistry onscreen, including the four leads, although there is some serious hand holding.
In its defense, A Week Away is good natured and has its heart in the right place. With the volume turned off, it makes a colorful screen saver for that expensive big flatscreen you bought during the pandemic.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Two halos: A confusing faith-based tween-centric musical.
One pitchfork: Offscreen shenanigans; a confusing church camp schedule.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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