Tuesday, January 18, 2011

They Try to Make Me Go to Boot Camp But I Say No, No, No

American females in my general age bracket would probably know the exact rhythm to chant were I to suddenly cry “Maur-y! Maur-y!” If you walked into your living room at 3PM on weekdays in the late ‘90s, you probably spent an awful lot of time observing wild teens get tamed or goth girls receive unflattering businesswomen haircuts on syndicated talk shows. Kids today sprinkle Jerry Springerisms into their vocabulary as if it were Sesame Street, but once upon a time, Sally Jessie, Jenny, Ricki, and of course, that lovable human mummy known as Maury Povich were like our own personal afterschool activity coordinators.
Few episodes made me happier than the scared straight segments where bratty punks were sentenced to prison trips or, when the audience was lucky, mini-stays at youth rehabilitation facilities...
Better known as Boot Camp.
Quick Plot: Unhappy teen Sophie (pre-Oscar buzz, American Psycho 2 era Mila Kunis) acts out, much to the exhaustion of her mother, stuffy stepfather, and occasionally, nice guy boyfriend Ben. Everything changes when Sophie is drugged and dragged to Fiji for a year of clean living at a military-ish camp headed by the unplaceable accent of Peter Stormare’s maybe psychologist and maybe sister wife.
Good news: You get to live on a tropical paradise!

Bad news: You’re pretty much enslaved.
Manual labor is emphasized, but it’s the psychological breakdown sessions (i.e., stand in the center of your peers as they insult/beat you with sticks until you confess your wrongs) that really piss off the milk-and-cookie-hating Sophie. I say that, but she doesn’t actually do a single thing to show her protests until the arrival of Ben, who becomes the world’s quickest bad teen EVER by going on a heroin binge to get sentenced south.
There’s a lot to say about Christian Duguay’s Boot Camp, even though I also have no real idea how I felt about the film itself. The poster, title, and Netflix packaging lead you to expect a straight-to-DVD quickie thriller, something I was definitely in the mood for and a little disappointed not to get. I wouldn’t call Boot Camp a bad or even boring film; with decent, if bland performances and an impressive landscape, it’s certainly better made than I had anticipated. 

At the same time, the film ultimately is making a statement about how awful these institutions are, which is admirable but a tad dull. There’s nary a touch of exploitation, which I suppose is to be respectable but also means the audience is spared from any chance of laughter or boo-yahisms. The kids themselves aren’t even that tough. Perhaps that’s part of the point, as the inane punishments and reeducation are completely inappropriate when all these youths really need is someone to listen. 
That’s nice. But you know what would be nicer? Badassness.

High Points
Though his character isn’t really sussed out clearly, I did like that Stormare’s doctor (if that’s what he was to begin with) wasn’t about to let the parents of these trouble teens off so easily

Low Points
At about 100 minutes, Boot Camp isn’t necessarily a long movie, but two slow music montages filled with longing glances, Googling, and non-nude nude scenes certainly pull things down
Lessons Learned
Having your face shoved in tropical mud on a weekly basis can do wonders for your complexion

When enrolling your son in a mysterious boot camp thousands of miles from home, don’t forget his allergy list
Chaining kids to cement blocks is not a nice welcome

Boot Camp is the first ‘serious’ film I’ve seen on the subject of these ungoverned youth camps, so for that alone it garners some interest. Kunis fans (who seem to be growing on trees these days) might enjoy seeing her sweating it out on a beach, but don’t expect a sleazy good time or women-in-prison funhouse. Do expect serious text telling you what an important issue this is introducing and ending the film, plus bad modern pop music accompanying boo-hoo montages. The choice you see, is yours. 


  1. Looks cute, but I'm more of a Dog Pound guy, m'self. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H10v1-Tl0kg

  2. Hm. Dog Pound seems to have a lovable Bad Boys (not Will Smith) vibe about it. Here's a jar of spiked orange juice to hoping it hits instant watch.