When troubled teen Noah is presented with the option of summer camp or juvenile detention, he chooses to tread into the unfamiliar territory of camp sing-a-longs, food fights, water activities, paintball, obstacle courses, and bunk beds. At the camp, he is targeted by the camp’s owner, Falco (Christopher Lloyd), but befriended by a faith-driven camp leader, Jake (Corbin Bleu), and an optimistic camper named Oliver (Tyler Kowalski). There’s also a group of cool guys determined to get under Noah’s skin and make his time at the camp more uncomfortable than it already is.
In Noah’s possession is a video game device that he was forced to steal by two criminals. When the device goes missing, he suspects the faithful campers are not what they seem, but it was actually Falco, who forbade any and all electronics during a service, who confiscated it.
A good example of a Christian leader, Jake is determined to reach Noah and help guide him on his spiritual journey. He leads by example and uses words when necessary. He senses Noah’s inner turmoil and makes a special point of devoting time to helping him progress.
The two criminals, who go through a series of adventures reminiscent of the “wet bandits” from Home Alone, finally track the device to the camp and are determined to retrieve their prize and settle the score. They disguise themselves as pest control workers while trying to find the device’s precise location. But Noah and his new friends construct a funhouse hideout in the woods, complete with booby traps designed to stop the intruders. Even Falco gets in on the action as an unlikely ally.
Camp Hideout features many subtle and some not-so-subtle hints of faith, including prayer, encouragement, crosses, and purpose-filled sermons. It’s not quite as overly evangelistic as some other recent entries, such as A Week Away and Family Camp, and that may appeal more to some who want entertainment to be the focus. To that end, it seems to be designed to be a fun, humorous family film and it succeeds at that. There is some violence, but it’s played for laughs and non-explicit. An epic comic food fight and its aftermath will appeal to kids, in particular. It should be appropriate for ages 6 and up, and a good family night movie for all. Camp Hideout receives the Dove seal for All Ages.
Think About It – Through all the action and hijinks, Noah frequently questions his path forward and whether or not a person can change and become a good person. His sense of worth seems dragged down by his past and his insecurity as a foster child. He is hesitant to fully embrace a place where people really seem to be sincere, and even sometimes when he does let his guard down, the group of cool guys show up to remind him he’s not just among friends.
There are plenty of discussion points in Camp Hideout for families, firstly reaching out to those who often don’t feel welcome in unfamiliar environments like school and church. How can we, like Jake, model the love of Christ and remain determined to help, even when being pushed away? One unlikely character says to Noah, “I believe everybody is reachable. I had to be reminded about that lately, but it’s true.”
There are also some themes of reciprocity in friendship. As Noah is accepted and welcomed into a new friendship group, he continues to hold secrets that put his friends in awkward situations. Their friendship recovers because they are determined to forgive, but Noah must learn to treat others as well as he has been treated himself. He also has to learn not to run away from his problems but to face them head on by himself or with his new support system.
Also, considering the transformation Noah experiences, does that concept hold true in real life? Can a person forget his or her past and become a new creation, as the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17. It could be the love of Christ that reaches them or even just being there and standing in the gap for a friend, as the kids in the film do when the time comes to defend Noah against the thieves. “We’ve got your back,” one says to him. Even the cool guys eventually come around.
Dove Take – Camp Hideout is a well-made family film with some strong messages of friendship, faith, purpose, and even transformation. There are many great performances, but the icing on the cake is the presence of comedy and family film legend Christopher Lloyd, who at first seems to give a whimsical caricature-based performance that morphs into a more tender and warm leadership role.