Sunday, May 15, 2016

Happy Campers (Daniel Waters, 2001)

Damn you, Daniel Waters! Damn you for making me choose between Emily Bergl (Carrie 2: The Rage) and Dominique Swain (Lolita 2: The Quickening). I know, what about Jaime King? Screw that free spirit vibe she was putting out there, this is clearly a battle between the Berglster and the Swainstress. Of course, given my track record when it comes to championing those who possess, oh, let's just say, an oft-kilter brand of beauty, you would think I would naturally gravitate towards Emily Bergl (Francis Jarvis from Gilmore Girls!!!). But holy crap does Dominique Swain ever bring her A game to Happy Campers, the lesser known summer camp comedy from 2001 (Wet Hot American Summer being the more known one). Written and directed by the writer of Heathers, the film, as expected, is darkly humourous and refreshingly unsentimental. But like I was saying, it put me in a bit of a bind. And that is,  repeatedly forcing me to choose between two actresses I have the hots for. Granted, the characters in the film itself seem to have no trouble whatsoever making their decision (they either went with Swain or King), but I'm not Brad Renfro (Ghost World) or the Xander-esque Jordan Bridges (Dawson's Creek), and I'm definitely not Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell). Which reminds me. Can you believe that Justin Long actually settles for Emily Bergl at one point? The nerve of some people. But don't worry, Emily Bergl sees right through Justin Long's lame attempt to reluctantly woo her and shuts him down right in the middle of the eye of a hurricane.

You're probably thinking to yourself: Great, another camp movie where youthful heterosexuals try to hump one another over the course of the summer. While, yes, it's true, there are plenty of attempts to hump the opposite sex in this movie. I was pleasantly surprised that two camp counselors, the rebellious Wichita (Brad Renfro) and the perky Wendy (Dominique Swain), decide to use live frogs instead of their genitals to court one another. What I mean is, instead trying to insert certain parts of their anatomy into each other, they would try to stuff live frogs down one another's shorts/bikini bottoms.

While this all sounds completely normal on paper, the actual practice of frog stuffing causes Oberon (Peter Stormare), the dictatorial camp director of Camp Bleeding Dove, to loose his shit. Oh, and just to let you know, the scene where Oberon catches Wichita shoving a live frog down the backside of Wendy's bikini bottoms in front of a rapt audience of camp counselors and campers is the film's first big laugh. Well, at least it was for me.

I think the line went something like this: "What kind of sick fucky-fuck ritual is that"?

And, yes, the camp at the center of this movie is called "Camp Bleeding Dove." And while this sounds like the ideal location for a machete-wielding madman to get his kill on, the only thing that is killed in this movie is the buzz that Wendy repeatedly kills with her deranged brand of enthusiasm. Actually, I think that's a tad on the harsh side. What can I say? She sucks at her job. That is until she's gets a whiff of Wichita's salty man-scent.

Oh, and when I say, "sucks," I mean it in a good way. You see, Wichita's social experiment for the summer is to change the definition of "sucks" from a negative verb to a positive one. On top of telling Wendy she sucks, Wichita tells Trevor Christensen's Wes (my favourite camper) that what he did for a fellow camper sucked. As a reward, Wichita tells Wes to go down to the lake, where he gets an eyeful of side-boob.

Eventually growing tired of the frog stuffing scene, Wichita and Wendy decide to start using their junk to communicate their affection for one another. Much to the chagrin of the cynical Talia (Emily Bergl) and the dorky Donald Dark (Justin Long), who both have massive crushes on them.

Hold up, I just remembered that hippy-dippy Pixel (Jaime King) makes a play to get into Wendy's ultra-tight panties (pressing oh so tightly against her goose bump-laden crotch skin). Sure, she ultimately settles on the cock attached to the crude and pig-like Adam (Jordan Bridges) as her summertime plaything, but the fact that she tries to cut herself a sweet slice of Wendy pie before hopping on Adam's pork stick was quite telling. And, on top of being telling, annoying as hell.

I mean, seriously. What does Talia have to do to get noticed around here? She could make a play for Jasper (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), but he's as queer as a three dollar bill. In other words, no nookie for Talia.

Speaking of queer, the scene where Jasper tells Wichita that he will go down on him if Cliff Moore's "Don't Touch Me" Todd catches a about to be tossed football was pretty tense. I mean, call me seriously gay, but I never wanted someone to catch a football so badly.

When Oberon says early on that fun without structure is chaos, he isn't kidding around. After Oberon is knocked out of commission by a bolt of lightning, the camp counselor's take over and anarchy reigns supreme.

You could tell at times that Happy Campers was written by someone who was alive/fully conscious during the 1980s when Adam mentions Phoebe Cates at one point and Jasper says such in such should be avoided like a Spandau Ballet tribute album. Of course, not many nineteen year-olds in the year 2001 probably knew who Phoebe Cates or Spandau Ballet were, but I appreciated the references, nonetheless.

My favourite non-Peter Stormare (whose presence is greatly missed after the lightning strike) line was actually uttered by Emily Bergl when she tells a camper that, "Behind every great woman is a great embarrassing first menstruation story." It's the kind of line Diablo Cody would give her left nut to write.

Some of the characters fuck, some of the characters learn life lessons, some of the characters paint tribal markings on the body and attack the sexually active characters with condoms filled with water. But at the end of the day, I laughed a few times and, most importantly, I got to see Dominique Swain in a bikini.


  1. And what, pray tell, is wrong with having the hots for more than one actress at once? That happens to me all the time.

    1. Nothing, really. I'm just not very good at multitasking.