Boot Camp (1 & 1/2 stars out of 4)
This painfully earnest 2007 direct-to-Blockbuster-DVD-bargain-bin “taut drama” (There you go again, Netflix; lying through your teeth) exposes the plight of the American teen in the wake of the 1970s’ Tough Love movement.
According to a post-script tacked-on just before the closing credits–which feels a bit hastily researched–thousands of troubled kids are shipped off to boot camps “just like this one” every day, where they are in danger of suffering rape, psychological and physical torture and all manner of abuse.
While I don’t doubt that boot camps are a hellishly misguided attempt to deal with “bad” kids, I can’t help but question the existence of lots of ultra clandestine prison-like camps, located on remote Fijian islands and operated by that guy from Fargo who puts people through a wood chipper.
I don’t know. Somehow it seems a little–unlikely.
Mila Kunis (so charming in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is woefully miscast as Sophie, the Bad Girl with a heart of gold, who is sent to the titular Boot Camp; an incongruous mix of basic training, Lord of the Flies, Shutter Island and Hare Krishna retreat. Sophie’s saintly boyfriend from back home, Ben (played by Gregory Smith, the poor man’s James McAvoy), finds his way to the island in a quest to free her and the rest of the young inhabitants of the Island of Misfits.
It’s unclear what motivation there is for the camp’s director “Doctor” Norman Hail (Peter Stormare of Fargo) to go to such lengths to “help” these troubled children using the “unorthodox” methods found only in B-movies. Is there an eeevil power plant secreted away on the island that feeds on the ghosts of teenage angst? One can’t say, but I’d like to think so.
Hail and his partner/sister/wife(?) exchange vague and unprovoked references to “the last time” and the “dead girl” and other awkward bon mots that inform us that there is a Dark Secret in the Doctor’s past. In case his accent, cane and habit of chaining teenagers overnight to concrete slabs on the beach didn’t give that away.
We must give the good doctor some credit. When the 100 or so children suddenly wake from their zombie-like Stockholm Syndrome daze and stage an impressively organized spontaneous uprising, they are incredibly swift and orderly. Those poor kids sure did learn some discipline while practicing yoga and beating the shit out of one another on the Island of Doctor Moreau.
Boot Camp is embarrassingly over-the-top (to wit, when Hail tries to get Sophie to break down her barriers and talk about her past, she defiantly spits back “I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing here, but I’m not interested.”) but not over-the-top enough to be any real fun.