In the new musical A Week Away, premiering Friday, March 26, on Netflix, a troubled teen — played by Kevin Quinn, who’s a near-clone of High School Musical-era Zac Efron — avoids juvie by being sent to a Christian summer camp. Is that even legal? Stop asking questions, unless the answer involves singing about God.
Resting alongside Netflix’s more, ahem, adult fare, is this frothy romp set to the tunes of various Contemporary Christian pop songs, only a couple of which I’d heard before (my idea of Christian pop is U2 or Mumford & Sons).
Kids sing, dance, mourn dead parents, fall in love, shoot each other in paintball, and manage never to get stung by bees, attacked by squads of mosquitoes or fall into poison ivy.
And their hair always looks great.
I didn’t go to summer camp, so this wasn’t a nostalgia-fest for me in that way, but I appreciated the shout-outs to John Hughes movies, especially to the perfection that is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The singing and dancing are pretty good, the acting’s broad but acceptable, and it’s squeaky clean (even if Netflix based its poster on the one scene where backlighting allowed you to see right through the female lead’s summer dress, but they did obscure it a bit).
Can you let the kids watch A Week Away? Unless you’re offended by girls in shorts, boys in truly appalling shorts, belching and some peeks of bare midriff, sure. There are a couple of heart-tuggy moments (but no dog, more’s the pity), Not Zac Efron moodily strums a guitar, and the script neatly punctures some tropes of the teen-movie genre.
And the lead girl characters are named Avery and Presley, because apparently, we don’t do traditional girl names anymore.
Nothing’s going to turn me into a fan of Contemporary Christian music, but it’s tolerable — and even good toward the end, where Michael W. Smith’s Awesome God gets intertwined with another song in a slick bit of multipart campfire harmony.
Now, as I said, I haven’t been to summer camp, so I sure haven’t been to church camp. But, and correct me if I’m wrong, there should be some church at church camp, or at least a Bible study. We don’t get any of that here, but it would interfere with the whole happy-camper vibe.
There’s no deep theology in A Week Away, and while God gets name-checked frequently, Jesus is mostly kept offstage … except for a reference to “Jesus freaks.”
Well, it is one of the few times that His name wasn’t taken in vain on Netflix.
Thank Christ for that.
The most remarkable thing about A Week Away (official site here) is that a faith-based film was not just acquired by Netflix, it’s presented by Netflix — and it doesn’t even star Dolly Parton or is produced by Pharrell. With no heavyweights behind it, this project made it on the merits, and we’ll see if Netflix’s gamble paid off.
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