A WEEK AWAY is cheesy, corny, and incredibly predictable
A WEEK AWAY (2021)
When considering watching A Week Away I had to consider two specific attributes from the trailer that stuck out to me: it has a major religious theme, and it’s a teenage musical set within a summer camp. To put this a little more into perspective, I wouldn’t call myself an overly religious person, certainly not one that would seek out any faith based films (ex. God’s Not Dead, Miracles From Heaven) because sometimes they can go a little overboard with their ideas. However A Week Away is a faith based film that tries to capture the magic from the High School Musical / Camp Rock era of film, so I was willing to give it a shot.
The opening credits of A Week Away immediately made me wary of the film to come. To start the film off with a song from the group before seeing any of them sing was a terrible choice, but luckily once we get to know the characters behind the voices, their musical numbers truly aren’t worth worrying about. In his feature directorial debut, Roman White, known for a career of helming music videos, attempts to bring over the key concept of a music video into a teen dramedy. White does this with varying levels of success; while I think the characters’ dialogue between one another may come off as cheap or unoriginal, it’s really the way we get to know these characters - the music feels ultimately tacked on. To give praise where praise is due, there’s a Mr. & Mrs. Smith setup halfway through the film that I literally died laughing at; that’s a joke made for the adults watching with their children.
Will (Kevin Quinn), a troubled teenager on the brink of being sent to juvie, is given one more chance to straighten his ways by participating in a week long Christian summer camp. As a teen of little faith after his parents passed away, Will must take the message of the camp to heart while making friends along the way. The plot is comfortable, and the audience can guess exactly where it’s going because we’ve seen this movie before. The only real difference is there’s a religious twist. The religion aspect is built in to add an extra level to the characters, especially Will being the less devout one, but at length just feels like a gimmick to make this film stick out slightly amongst the other teenage dramedies. When I think of a religious camp featured in a film my mind instantly goes to Yes, God, Yes, a more mature dramedy involving teens at summer camp. This film simulates what it’s like listening to a Christian rock album - you can tell it’s ripping off something similar while simultaneously sticking in religious themes to make it a “holy” take.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
When it comes to teenage movies such as this, there’s usually a villain character that wants to get in the main character’s way, usually to one up them. As predicted, this is the case here with a generic villain found in Iain Tucker’s Sean. Tucker does what he can with the material he’s given, but it’s fairly obvious each step the character takes to foil the lead’s relationship. That being said, that’s where a more specific troubled area comes into play - Will and Avery’s quickly developed romantic relationship that truthfully feels like it should remain a friendship. Bailee Madison’s portrayal of a camp girl that’s continuously dealing with her mother’s passing and finding solace through God is adequate, but she’s never pulling on the heart strings with her emotions, and even during a key musical number at the fire pit with tears streaming, she’s just not overly believable. However, Kevin Quinn is trying to capture what we see in the original High School Musical; he almost seems to be doing an impression of Troy Bolton at moments. His acting is similar to Madison’s, in which I can say it’s adequate and works for the film to a certain degree, but not much else. Worryingly, the two supporting characters of Jahbril Cook’s George and Kat Conner Shepherd’s Presley stood out much more vividly when compared to the leads. Although even these two share very similar characteristics of awkward teens we’ve seen come to life in plenty of other teen flicks. It’s not great when the supporting characters completely outdo the leads with their chemistry.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
The best part of the film is the end credits that show us behind the scene footage of bloopers/outtakes showing that this film was actually filmed at a supposed camp. The fact that the setting was actually utilized properly and shot on the scene is a nice touch, making the film have more realism than shooting purely on sets or backlots, although it’s worth mentioning that there is a scene featuring a heavily used green screen that is highly distracting in the moment. With a musical, you need two things: great music and great choreography. For this section, let’s begin with the choreography... it’s dull to watch. There’s barely any purpose to it even being present, as it never represents the song in an appropriate fashion and instead is merely there to attempt to distract us from the performances.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
In a musical, you’d hope that the music would stand out like a sore thumb. However, in A Week Away, it just doesn’t. With the musical lyrics you’d hope that it would help propel the story forward, similar to how every song in the original High School Musical did, but in the case of A Week Away, the weakly crafted music fails to move the story along fluently, making the film stumble through minutes at a time. Even when a tune does catch your attention, the lyrics let it down, making the track instantly forgettable as soon as the number is complete.
For a faith based feature film, I surprisingly didn’t strongly dislike my experience with it. A Week Away is cheesy, corny, and incredibly predictable, but it’s the music that ultimately clips the wings from this film’s potential. It’s been a number of years since the last big teen musical has been released, most memorably High School Musical 3 in 2008, nearly 13 years ago, so the idea of a resurgence in this kind of film seemed promising. However, that prospect is difficult to reproduce when the musical aspect of the film simply isn’t the highlight.