by Sam Acosta
In this incorrigible ode to Steve Curtis Chapman, “A Week Away” manages to not only ruin my memories of church camp but somehow remove God from the experience as well. Over the course of an hour and thirty-four minutes, I was forced to endure painfully written dialogue, Christian stereotypes on steroids, and theology that feels like it came as a prize in my Chick-Fil-A kid’s meal. Luckily, the production value of the film is very good, so at least that was nice.
The story follows Will Hawkins (Kevin Quinn), a troubled teen at risk of being sent to juvie if he doesn’t clean up his act. His only hope is to accept the help of Kristin (Sherri Shepherd) and her teenage son George (Jahbril Cook), who invite him to come to Camp Aweegaway. He reluctantly agrees to the arrangement, sending the viewer on a musical journey that I wish I could forget.
We meet the owner of the camp, David (David Koechner), and his daughter Avery (Bailee Madison), along with the camp bully, Sean (Iain Tucker). Will gets a crush on Avery almost immediately, but George reminds him that she probably wouldn’t be interested in someone on the road to juvie. So Will, utter genius that he is, decides to make up a pretend version of himself so that he has a shot with Avery.
As he gains popularity and gets closer to Avery, Sean decides to try and figure out who Will really is. He breaks into David’s office, finds the files on Will’s criminal background and reveals this to Avery. Will ends up running away from the camp, but Avery chases after him in a “heartfelt” scene so that his character can have his requisite “God moment.” He eventually comes back, and everything works out and he gets the girl and it’s a happy ending.
This might seem like a shallow and weak plot… and that’s because it is. There are so many loose ends in the story that they could make an entire movie based on wrapping those up. Big dramatic backstories to characters like Will and Avery are touched on but have absolutely no substance to them. Avery has some personal vendetta against the word “perfect” that barely has any explanation, Sean has feelings for Avery that he expresses in the first five minutes of the movie but are never brought up again, and somehow the happy ending to this faith-based story doesn’t even come with a profession of faith from Will.
The acting is fairly serviceable, so I have no real complaint in that department. I can tell that everyone is working as hard as they can to make this flimsy script work, and I don’t hold it against them when it doesn’t. The rest of the production is also well put together, with decent choreography and cinematography. There were even some beautiful-looking scenes that felt like tiny breaths of fresh air amid the overwhelming mediocrity.
The gravest misstep that this film takes, however, is the blatant misuse of Christian music. So many great songs are misconstrued from their original intent (the worship of God) and forced to fit into summer camp situations. You will witness the classic song “Dive” by Steven Curtis Chapman, a song about surrendering to God, become “Dive: I’m Afraid of Heights but I Want to Swim.” If that is not your taste, maybe you will enjoy “God Only Knows” by for King & Country, a song about God’s unmatched love, which becomes “God Only Knows How Much I Want to Date You.”
The reason I felt so betrayed by this movie is that it markets itself as a Christian film but then uses Christianity as a contextual setting rather than telling a Christian story. The few times faith is brought up, it doesn’t have a single shred of authenticity. In fact, Avery even tries defining faith, and she somehow finds a way to define it completely wrong, describing it as a guess or feel-good superstition rather than the belief in something that is true. The misuse of the music just magnifies this issue, making the movie feel like it’s pandering to the Christian community to make money off them.
I know a lot of people who enjoyed this film on some level, and I understand why. There is a lot of church camp nostalgia to find in it, and there are some lines that are genuinely funny. Even some of the cringe-y moments are entertaining in their own way. I don’t blame anyone who enjoys those aspects of the movie because I enjoyed those aspects too. I just can’t appreciate it as a whole because to me, it reeks of disingenuous intent. While there are moments to be enjoyed, this film overall severely lacks both substance and authenticity.
“A Week Away” is now available to stream on Netflix.
Sam Acosta is a sophomore Theatre Comprehensive Major and an A&E writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper, and writing plays.