‘Rock Camp’ doc more like an extended infomercial

by Nick Spacek on January 14, 2021

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

In theaters and virtual cinemas January 15 and on-demand starting February 16.

Directed and produced by Doug Blush, co-directed and edited by Renee Barron, and produced by Jeff Rowe, Rock Camp: The Movie features a dazzling array of rock stars and the lucky folks who get to interact with them at the phenomenon known as Rock Camp.

“Summer camp meets Spinal Tap as we journey to Rock’ n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, where dreamers from across America and around the world gather to shred with their heroes – and learn to rock like the legends.

The experience takes music lovers from spectator to the stage, sharing the limelight with their musical heroes. Rock Camp: The Movie follows four campers (and their families) through their journeys to shred with their heroes and see how they overcome their fears and transform their lives.”

Not for nothing, but this movie could’ve easily been about a bunch of middle-aged dudes who want to play “Detroit Rock City” with Paul Stanley from KISS. That does happen, but thankfully, directors Blush and Barron don’t go the easy route. Since its formation in 1996 by former sports agent David Fishof, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp has been featured in myriad news stories, magazine articles, and a particularly memorable episode of The Simpsons, making it ripe for any number of narrative tacks.

For the documentary, the co-directors choose to lean into a hybrid style, wherein they trace the personal paths of four different camp attendees, while also looking at the history of the Rock’ n’ Roll Fantasy Camp as a whole. While it’s commendable that those featured have varied and intriguing backstories – drummer Scott “Pistol” Crockett was in a high school band with Lenny Kravitz and missed his chance to play on the rocker’s debut Let Love Rule, for instance – each of the four campers are all financially well-off to the point where they can afford the $5,499 camp fees plus airfare and time off work to attend the camp.

There’s no real struggle to be found. This is despite the fact that Blake Meinhardt, a teenager on the spectrum who really only comes alive when playing music, is obviously a fascinating person with a wealth of knowledge and talent, or that Scott Keller‘s son Jackson was born with severe birth defects and has managed to get the to the point where he can come to camp and rock out with his dad. Their stories are given highlight reel touch-and-go looks, but there’s not a lot of deep-diving into their situations.

If anything, it highlights the fact that those attending Rock’ n’ Roll Fantasy Camp are people of means who can find ways in which they can enrich both their own lives, as well as those of their neuroatypical children, something many people don’t have the opportunity to do. It’s great to see that the rockers featured in the documentary really seem to enjoy getting to interact with fans on this level, where they’re kinda / sorta peers, but even those interviews come across more as advertising fodder for the camp, rather than digging deeply into what it means for them personally.

Taken all together, the major flaw of Rock Camp: The Movie is that it’s too broad a focus. Trying to cover personal stories, the history of the camp, the experiences of the rockers, and what media has made of it results in each aspect getting short shrift, and therefore we’ve ended up with a movie which feels mostly like a feature-length infomercial one might see play out late-night after the Night Court re-runs have ended.

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and as Music Editor for The Pitch.

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