With our world still struggling with anger and confusion over politics, discrimination, health crisis and even religion, watching A Week Away was like a breath of fresh air. The new Netflix musical takes families back to a simpler time and place – summer camp. And as a faith-based movie, it’s a whole new way to reach the masses with the gospel.
The movie follows Will Hawkins (Kevin Quinn), a troubled teen who after a run-in with the law, finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. He must either go to a juvenile detention center or simply attend a youth summer camp with George (Jahbril Cook) and his mother (Sherri Shepherd) who is a camp counselor. (I’m not sure how he got that deal, but whatever.) The choice seems obvious.
Upon arriving at Camp Aweegaway, Will discovers that he’s been duped into attending church camp. He is less than thrilled about his situation and some viewers might be tempted to tune out as Will is greeted by a varity of singing and dancing kids. (Remember, this is a musical.) That is until he meets the Avery (Bailee Madison). Then he’s ready to settle in. By the way, Avery is also the daughter of the camp director (David Koechner).
Of course, Will shares a cabin with George (he pulled a few strings) who has a crush of his own named Presley (Kat Conner Sterling) a girl he met the year before and has been pining for her all year long but doesn’t have the confidence to tell her how he really feels. She feels the same way about him and the two have a cute duet with a song (“Good Enough”) that sounds like it came from the High School Musical playbook. She is completely adorkable by the way.
In order to impress Avery, Will conspires with George to pretend that they are cousins and create a whole new backstory for his live in order to fit in at the camp. However, some campers are suspicious of the new kid and maybe even a little bit jealous. One camper goes so far to do some digging on Will’s background and exposes his secrets. (Since this is a Christian camp, this boy isn’t really a villain. He is sort of a villain-light.)
Just like the real camp experience, A Week Away is light and fun showcasing all of the pleasures of camp life including swimming, crafts, paintball, competitions, campfires and camp food. Directed by Roman White (known mostly for filming many music videos for the likes of Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Brad Paisley), A Week Away has the look and feel of a very popular Disney Channel franchise. That might have something to do with the fact that the film’s music producer, Adam Watts, worked on High School Musical 3 and the two main stars have appeared in many Disney TV productions.
Parents will appreciate the use of older songs originally recorded by Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman but redone in different styles here by the campers. As sort of a thank you, Grant and Chapmen even make brief appearances in the film. (Blink and you’ll miss them.) In addition, the movie also features four new original songs.
The film also beautifully handles the messages about God as well. Some people will no doubt critize the film for not being heavy-handed enough with the gospel messages but that is exactly what turns many people off from watching faith-based movies. For years, many Christian films only preached to the choir. More recently, filmmakers are realizing that their films aren’t going to save anyone but they can be used as an invitation toward the faith.
Christian films are also known for bad writing as well as bad acting. That is not the case here. The kids (mostly) say and do things that kids in real life actually do and say. The lines meant for comedy are actually funny and the “thoughtful” moments are not cringe-making. I found myself waiting for the “big preaching scene” that just about every faith-based movie has, it is just isn’t here.
A Week Away may appeal more to junior-highers instead of high schoolers, which is often the case with other teen-focused movies and shows. And that is great as there are many great examples for them to follow in this film. If you kids are fans of musicals, add this to their list. This also makes for a great family film as the acting and singing are both really good. Still, a few mysteries remain after watching the film like with a camp full of dozens of teens, why do Will and George get a cabin all to themselves? And where are all of the camp counselors? I guess they aren’t needed since the campers are so well-behaved. Okay, so the film isn’t entirely realistic, but it is sure a nice vacation.
A Week Away premieres on Netflix on March 26, 2021.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.