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Boot Camp (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Boot Camp

Boot Camp

BOOT CAMP (2009)

Starring Mila Kunis, Gregory Edward Smith, Peter Stormare, Regine Nehy, Alejandro Rae, Christopher Jacot, Tygh Runyan, Matthew Smalley, Colleen Rennison, Barbara Gates Wilson, Christianne Hirt and Lexie Huber.

Screenplay by Agatha Dominik and John Cox.

Directed by Christian Duguay.

Distributed by MGM Home Entertainment.  99 minutes.  Not Rated.

There are self-important title captions at the beginning and end of this movie suggesting that Boot Camp is based on a real, hideous phenomenon that has been going on for years in the world – a condition that has caused at least 40 deaths and has ruined countless lives.

Young, troubled kids are sent off by their parents to reprogramming “boot camps” where they are overworked, underfed, tortured, sexually assaulted and essentially browbeaten into submission.

Is it true?  I don’t know.  I’ve heard of the kind of thing.  I certainly know that cheesy talk shows like Maury and Jerry Springer do periodic “boot camp” specials where drill sergeants come and yell at sex-crazed, drug-addicted kids.

Are there actually work camps on South Pacific where middle class kids are held captive in areas that seem to be a cross of Guantanamo Bay and the Jonestown compound?

Again, no clue.  Perhaps.

The fact that it may possibly be true doesn’t make the movie any less ridiculous, though.

Boot Camp stars Mila Kunis – who had seemed to have finally worked her way past stupid B-movies like this with her wonderful performance in Forgetting Sarah Marshall last year.  In fairness to her (possibly) resurrected career, this is an older movie that has been moldering on the shelf somewhere since it was made in 2007, apparently because no one in the studios had any interest in giving this stinker a release date.

It is finally being slinked out on video, where hopefully it will get no more attention than it did before.  The DVD comes with a crass “UNRATED” stamp across the cover, but there is nothing overly sexual or more than cartoonishly violent here.  It would have easily gotten an R-rating if the filmmakers so chose, possibly even a PG-13.

Kunis plays Sophie – a cute 17-year-old girl who is rebelling against her bluenose politician step-dad.  She goes out of her way to get into trouble, doing drugs, going to parties, making out with her hunky boyfriend (but stopping him before it goes too far) and embarrassing the pol in front of his constituents.

The evil step dad convinces Sophie’s mom (whose relationship with her daughter has become strained since the death of Sophie’s sainted father) to put the girl in a type of rehab.  That program is called ASAP (Advanced Serenity Achievement Program) – a “tough love” camp run somewhere on the Fiji Islands by a doctor named Hail (Peter Stormare) with a shady past and some very radical views on rehabilitation.

(Early on, Sophie’s story seems like it will be getting equal time with two teen boys who are sent to camp at the same time as her, but quickly the boys’ stories become mere subplots.)

We know things are going to be bad when on their first night on the island the new “recruits” are chained to a cement block on the shore and then must fight to avoid drowning as the tide rises.  Asked why he did it the next day, Dr. Hail explains it was to let them know what their parents felt like every day – being chained down by the child’s bad behavior.  Uh oh, not only is the guy a sadist, but he is really willing to go the extra mile to make an awkward, psychobabble metaphor.

Eventually, Sophie’s hunky boyfriend Ben (Gregory Smith of Everwood) is able to find out through her mom where exactly she is.  He is easily able to find out on the Internet that the doctor is not really a doctor, a girl had died in one of his previous camps and Hail had to flee the US.  (If he can find all this with a simple Google search, you have to wonder why don’t any of the parents do even simple research about the person to whom they are entrusting their children?)

The boyfriend decides to infiltrate the camp and save his woman.  His less-than-brilliant tactic – pretending that he has become addicted to heroin in hopes that his dad, who apparently doesn’t even know Sophie’s parents, will know to send him to the exact same program.  Or, for that matter, he assumes they won’t give him a drug test, since Ben was apparently shooting up with saline solution.

However, for reasons that are never explored by the film at all, his plan somehow works like a charm.  Ben gets sent to ASAP, finds Sophie, even helps her escape – only to have both get caught and returned to the camp.  (Note to Ben: when planning a clandestine getaway from a nearby beach resort, register under a fake name!)

The camp is a little hard to figure out honestly.  There are hundreds of kids being “treated” there, and yet the only authority figures seem to be the mad doctor in charge of the place, his slightly more caring sister and maybe ten to twenty guard/drill instructors.  When the inevitable happens and the kids start to rebel, the question isn’t why this is happening, but why it took so long to figure out that the inmates way outnumber the guards.  This complicity is doubly confounding since it seems that you just need a paper clip to jam the tracking anklets that all of the kids are forced to wear on their legs.

Then again, noticing and questioning specific plot points is giving Boot Camp the benefit of the doubt that it ever makes any sense at all – and frankly that’s simply not the case.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: August 25, 2009.


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