Not long ago, my brother, Matt, texted me a clip from an upcoming Netflix movie, “A Week Away,” along with a single word: “Hmm.” In the clip, actors Bailee Madison and Kevin Quinn dance through a flowery wood, singing “Place in this World” by Michael W. Smith.
What. Was. This?! My cheese-o-meter tingled. A ’90s CCM hit performed “High School Musical”-style? How in the world could this ever work? I decided to reserve judgment until I could watch the entire film. That night, I sat in nervous anticipation of what my eyes were about to behold. Here’s what I experienced:
- Catchy, refreshingly original remixes of CCM standards that in some cases were better than the originals
- Quality acting (with a few actors playing completely different roles than I’d seen them in before)
- A compelling, heartwarming storyline
- Campiness (obviously)
- A reminder of some of the best experiences of my life — that happened at camp
In my experience, most faith-based films have their cringe-worthy moments. But “A Week Away” seems to embrace the cringe factor 100 percent, which actually works to its advantage. The film has a good message but doesn’t take itself too seriously. After all, it is a faith-based jukebox musical. On the Faith & Family Media Blog, author Josh Shepherd breaks down the contributing factors of the film’s surprising appeal (it debuted in the Netflix Top 5):
Seven years in the making, this dream project of screenwriter/producer Alan Powell — former singer/songwriter for Christian band Anthem Lights, and more recently a co-star on ABC’s Quantico — defies easy description.
[It] looks and sounds like one of Disney Channel’s bubble-gum musicals — for good reason. Adam Watts, who wrote songs for Camp Rock, produced the soundtrack. Plus, the flick features a summer camp full of fresh-faced Disney stars including Bailee Madison (Once Upon A Time), Kevin Quinn (Bunk’d — and who looks startlingly like Zac Efron, when he was in High School Musical), and Jahbril Cook (Shine).
The film’s tone walks a fine line between earnest sermon illustration — Powell is the son of a minister — and outrageous self-parody. Believable acting sells the show as a fun 90-minute romp worth sticking around for, and many of the young stars also profess Christian faith.
The combination of good acting and storytelling, plus the Christian music hits millennials grew up with, combines to make this film extremely likable. But I think what really sold it for me was the nostalgia found in its spot-on portrayal of Christian camp. From the camp romances to emotional campfire times to recreational competitions and even girls “divin’ in” to the lake in their one-piece swimsuits and shorts, the film nails the camp experience — both the ridiculous and the reverent.
I found myself reminiscing about the fun I had and the spiritual decisions I made at camp as a teen. Powell says he made “A Week Away” for his kids. And maybe that’s one of the best parts. This morning I heard my 6-year-old belting “Place in this World,” and I realized a whole new generation is discovering the magic of ’90s CCM. More importantly, though, they’re seeing that summer camp can be a great place to connect with God and others and find a place to belong.
What are your best memories of summer camp?
Copyright 2021 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.