Review: 'A Week Away'

Post by: Rick Ellis 26 March, 2021

One of the most difficult tasks as a critic is to review genres and subjects that aren't in your wheelhouse or aren't what you believe are complex enough to be worthwhile of a close examination. It's part of the reason why so many reboots of beloved family-oriented TV shows from the 80s and 90s are now complex, dark stories of the supernatural. Family-oriented is the equivalent to boring in the eyes of many in Hollywood. And faith-based AND family-friendly? It's the creative equivalent of an old Elvis film in the eyes of many creative people in the industry.

But if you've ever worked on a family-oriented television show or movie, you would know that they can be incredibly difficult to pull off well. The material and performances have to feel authentic and true, while at the same time using the PG-rated premise as an opportunity, not a limitation. It's much easier to add conflict to scene using a ghost or a demon than it is by relying on the difficulties that arise between believable human characters struggling with honest human emotions. And while I embrace the darkness as much as the next person, there are times when it is comforting to be be reminded of the good things in the world. I am not an especially faith-based person anymore, but that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate the genre.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I don't expect to see a lot of positive reviews of the new Netflix movie A Week Away. It's a family-oriented musical about a troubled teen who is sent to a the Christian summer camp Camp Aweegaway in a effort to turn his life around. And not surprisingly, he finds love and friendship. He also discovers a bit about his true heart as he learns to trust other people.

The performances are for the most most earnest and solid. Kevin Quinn plays bad guy Will Hawkins and he does a nice job of navigating the difficult challenge of being dislikable enough to come off as "bad," but charming enough to be believable as a love interest. Jahbril Cook does a wonderful job as Will's cabin bunkmate and guide to this unfamiliar world. He is just the type of person you'd want as a friend in this type of situation and Cook wrings every little bit of possibility out of every scene.

Bailee Madison plays Avery, the camp owner's daughter who becomes Will's love interest. The character as written doesn't always give her a lot to work with, especially in scenes that any fan of teen summer camp movies can see coming a mile away. But Madison is coy and nuanced and charming in the role and it's easy to see how even the most jaded rap-loving potential felon could look at her and wonder about his previous life decisions. She's the type of person who can make you want to be better and the relationship between Will and Avery is the core of what makes this movie a joy to watch.

The central conflict in the movie comes from the Warrior Games, a multiday contest that includes summer camp favorites like Tug of War and Dodgeball, along with a camp-ending talent show. There is plenty of singing and dancing and just enough teen-centric conflict to be familiar to anyone who has ever been to a summer camp. The games provide a lot of energy and gentle emotional wrangling to serve as a good counterpoint to the budding love story.

There aren't any big surprises in A Week Away, but to be honest, I find that comforting. Because what the movie does very well is create a world that is fun to be part of 90-or-so minutes. Veteran country music director Roman White knows how to craft a great visual and keep the action moving and that's a skill that helps the movie over a couple of its less interesting moments.

This might not be the hippest argument to make, but there is nothing wrong with a bit of semi-predictable comfort and joy in a year that has provided so much pain and disruption. Watching A Week Away is like being wrapped in a warm blanket of optimism about humanity and I am just fine with that.

A Week Away premieres Friday, March 26th, 2021 on Netflix.

Last modified on Friday, 26 March 2021 11:57