Saturday, May 1, 2021

Film Review: A Week Away


Sexuality/Nudity No Objection
Violence No Objection
Vulgarity No Objection
Anti-Catholic Philosophy No Objection

I discovered this movie.  It was actually because I was browsing YouTube and I saw that there was a clip labeled "Awesome God," and I saw that this clip was from Netflix.  And sure enough, the clip showed a group of teens singing the Rich Mullins song and I immediately experienced flashbacks to my own teen years.

A Week Away is a musical in the style of Disney's High School Musical.  Will (Kevin Quinn) is teenage orphan in the foster system.  After stealing a cop car, he is going to be sent to juvenile detention.  However, a foster mother Kristen (Sherri Shepherd) and her son George (Jahbril Cook) offer an alternative: go to a week-long summer camp.  Will agrees but only realizes as he is on his way that it is a Christian summer camp.  He warms to the place a bit when he becomes smitten with Avery (Bailee Madison), the daughter of the owner of Camp Aweegaway (David Koechner).  He also encounters George's crush Presley (Kat Conner Sterling) and the self-righteous leader of the "Azure Apostles" Sean (Iain Tucker).  Will tries to pass himself off as a devout Christian so that he can get closer to Avery, but as is the case in these types of movies, he begins to become what he pretends to be.

Generally speaking, I tend to dislike Christian movies.  While I am usually in sync with its themes and messages, these things are prioritized completely over all other artistic considerations.  The result is a sermon on film disguising as a story.  Fortunately that is not the case with A Week Away.

To be sure, the movie is geared towards pre-teens in the same way High School Musical was.  It presents an sanitized version of teen life, but in a way that is appropriate for the middle school crowd.  The performances are not stellar, but they are also not terrible.  Quinn and Madison have real chemistry, charisma, and talent.  Most everyone plays their parts in a very broad, theatrical way.

The musical numbers also work very well.  Now, I may be showing my age or my obscure tastes, but Christian music from the 80's and 90's took up a huge part of my CD collection in my later teen years.  I spent hours in the car listening to Rich Mullins, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith (all of whom I have seen in concert).  Choreographers Melena Rounis and Paul Becker put together some fun dance sequences.  Director Roman White has a long list of music video credits to his name and you can see that visual style throughout the movie.  Cinematographer James King makes everything look bright and inviting.  I especially loved the morning sun shining through the trees as the two leads sing "Place In This World."

Of course another personal resonance with me is the fact that the teen retreat experience was pivotal in my life.  I didn't go away to a week-long Christian camp, but I did make a 3-day retreat that changed my life.  In the movie, Dave tells Will that the name of the camp is "Aweegaway" as a reminder that "somebody is just a week away from an experience that changed everything for them."  I can speak from personal experience that this is 100% true.  The scene where the camp sings praise and worship songs at night around the campfire reminded me of the deeply moving experience I had when I encountered Christ.  The movie captured the sense of bonding you feel with others in those moments.

The movie is not perfect.  While it never tries to get too deep, it also feels a little shallow at times.  Will makes huge leaps in character development in an irrationally short period of time.  We are alerted to the fact two characters are geeky by the fact that they wear glasses.  I enjoyed the character George, but he feels like how someone my age would portray a Christian geek from the 90's, complete with an obsession for VHS tapes and John Hughes movies.

I can understand if my feelings about this movie are colored by my own tastes and life experiences.  But if you are looking for something family-friendly with a good Christian content, while at the same time providing some toe-tapping, fun times, then I would recommend checking out A Week Away.

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