W.A.F REVIEWS: Camp Cucamonga (1990)

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In 1990, television was in a very different state. Cable and satellite were still in their infancies, streaming services were non-existent, and the internet itself was still in the building stages. Television was mainly dominated by the big networks: NBC, CBS, and ABC. Fox had launched 4 years prior, but by 1990, they were still growing. Sitcoms had been a staple of the networks for multiple decades, and one of the most important parts of a sitcom at that time was kids. Kid stars were practically just as big as Hollywood film stars. With magazines like Tiger Beat & Teen Beat constantly showcasing these kids, it makes sense for their stardom. By September ’90, someone had a novel idea. What if a network made a TV movie where they took a group of the kid stars of the day and put them in a summer camp? Thus, NBC gave us “Camp Cucamonga”!
If you’ve ever watched a movie about a summer camp before, then you should know how fairly straight-forward the story is. A bunch of teens going through life changes, counselors who struggle with the kids treating them with respect, a bumbling camp director, and a sports tournament with a rival camp. Pretty paint-by-numbers. The story is not the main selling point, though. The casting is. Just look at who they got:
-John Ratzenberger (“Cheers”) as Director Marvin Shector
-Brian Robbins (“Head Of The Class”) as Roger Burke
-Chad Allen (“My Two Dads”) as Frankie Calloway
-Candace Cameron (“Full House”) as Amber Lewis
-Danica McKellar (“Wonder Years”) as Lindsey Scott
-Josh Saviano (“Wonder Years”) as Max Plotkin
-Jaleel White (“Family Matters”) as Dennis Brooks
-Johnny Galecki (“Roseanne”, “Big Bang Theory”) as Tony Johnson
-Dorothy Lyman (“Mama’s Family”) as Millie Schector
-Sherman Hemsley (“The Jeffersons”) as Herbert Himmel
-Breckin Meyer (“Clueless”) as Cody
-John Snee (“The New Leave It To Beaver”) as Troy
And a pre-“Friends” Jennifer Aniston as Ava Schector, her first credited film role!
Not to date myself here, but I remember watching this movie when it first aired. My parents decided to record it on VHS, so I have had quite a few viewings over the years. I gotta say, even though its available on DVD, I’m not sure I would ever want to part with my VHS copy. There is just something special about watching the movie, and getting to see the classic 1990 commercials that go with it.
I’ve got no problem saying that this is by no means a great film. The pacing is a little off, the jokes are bland at times, and the inclusion of a rap video featuring Jaleel White’s character rapping about the camp while the other campers act as backup singers and dancers is rather cringe-worthy. As a summer camp movie, it doesn’t stack up with the likes of movies like “Meatballs” or “Wet Hot American Summer”. But I would suggest putting aside any pre-conceived notions you might have about this movie and simply enjoy it for what it is. A moment in time.


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