As my older kids get ready to head off to sleep-away camp, I've been indulging their interest in summer camp movies. Unfortunately for them, many camp flicks are decidedly grown up (or horror, like "Friday the 13th"), but we've managed to scour Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes for a selection of movies that older kids and teens will enjoy, and will prepare them for a much tamer (we hope), but no less memorable time at camp. Some of the best camp movies such as, "Space Camp," "The Parent Trap," "Camp Nowhere," and "Heavyweights," weren't available to stream but are definitely worth checking out.
Rated G Pick: "Camp Rock" (2011, 99 minutes)
Kids Will Love: The Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato might be past their heyday, but that doesn't mean kids won't respond to the "School of Rock" meets "High School Musical" with a dash of "Cinderella" in this summer camp story about Mitchie (Lovato), a working-class aspiring singer-songwriter who attends a posh music camp with the likes of pop bad boy Shane Gray (Joe Jonas).
Parents Will Love: If your kids are too young for "Grease," this is a great "starter" musical: chaste summer lovin', tons of harmless pop tunes, and a poor girl who not only gets the boy but also the success she deserves. What could be more fun to watch before dropping them off at summer camp?
Did You Know? Parents of a certain age will recognize the name of the Disney movie's head writer: actress-singer-comedian Julie Brown (of "Earth Girls Are Easy" fame), the ultimate "Valley Girl" of the 1980s.
Teen Pick # 1: "Meatballs" (PG, 1979, 92 minutes)
Teens Will Love: Tripper (Bill Murray) is the head counselor of Camp North Star, where he enjoys playing nighttime pranks, wooing an attractive female counselor, and helping shy kids like Rudy (Chris Makepeace) let loose, try new things, and have the summer of a lifetime. The late '70s fashion, slang and hairstyles may seem dated, but the humor will still make teens crack up.
Parents Will Love: If you don't mind watching all the innuendo with your teens (yeah, the movie is rated PG, but this was years before the PG-13 rating existed), it's a classic summer movie starring the comedic genius that is Bill Murray -– what could be better? Just remember, the nostalgia comes with the potentially embarrassing (to your or your teen) cost of double entendres and hormone-fueled jokes.
Did You Know?: As any die-hard fan can probably tell you, "Meatballs" was Bill Murray's feature film debut. According to DVD extras, Murray memorably took it upon himself to help his young co-star Chris Makepeace shave to get rid of a scraggly pubescent mustache.
Teen Pick #2: "Camp" (PG-13, 2003, 109 minutes)
Teens Will Love: Middle and high-school kids will see a little bit (or a lot) of themselves in the theater nerds and overeager overachievers, the divas so popular they can do no wrong, or the counselors who wish they were somewhere else. The characters in "Camp" are funny, sweet, arrogant, and humble, and they will make young audiences laugh as they strive toward musical theater perfection.
Parents Will Love: You don't have to be a drama geek to get a kick out of the movie, but theater-loving parents will especially appreciate the Broadway humor, the cameos (Stephen Sondheim!) and the showtunes. Specialty camp alums will feel nostalgic for the days of summers gone by, when all the world was but a stage, and all you had to do was act, draw, play or ride all summer.
Did You Know? Arguably, the funniest joke in the movie is when Fritzi has to remind diva-ish Jill that they know each other and starred in a play together the previous summer: "'night, Mother." The Pulitzer Prize-winning play (which was turned into a 1986 film starring Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft) consists of only two characters.