Camp Nowhere is a 1994 comedy about a kid-run summer camp, starring Christopher Lloyd.Every year, junior high schoolers Mud, Gaby, Zack, and Trish are sent to summer camps their parents choose for them, but they hate: computer camp, fat camp, military camp, and drama camp, respectively. So, they decide this year is going to be different, and they are going to go somewhere they can be kids and have fun: A camp with no parents, no teachers, no camp counselors, and no rules.Out-of-work actor/drama teacher Dennis Van Welker (Lloyd) owes back payment on his car, and a debt collector is on his trail. Said debt collector is retiring, and wants to do so with a perfect record. Dennis, in turn, has to find some way to hide and/or come up with the cash.The four junior high kids hire Dennis to pose as the lead counselor for each of their camps, while convincing their parents that they cannot visit. Word about the plan gets out to the whole school, and before long many more kids have signed up. All the kids have fun, doing things they never would have been able to do with adults watching, but it soon becomes difficult to keep the camp a secret...
Bittersweet Ending: All things considered, it's a relatively light one. Everyone thanks Mud and Dennis for a great summer, neither one gets arrested, and Polk gets paid off. But it's right after the scheme falls apart completely, all the kids get sent home, and Mud gets grounded for a LONG time.
Bourgeois Bohemian / Hippie Teacher: Dennis. When Feln tells them that the camp used to be a hippie commune, Dennis suddenly remembers having been there before.
First, there's the page image above, which seems to make the movie out to be the second coming of Animal House. In fact, the movie was a kids' movie and NOTHING like Animal House, but you wouldn't know it by looking at that poster.note Which can be seen larger here.◊
To wit: there were no supermodels in string bikinis and daisy dukes (there was probably only one bikini in the entire movie, and it was far more modest), the kids didn't tie up a guy in a suit and spray him with water, and most of the cast was in junior high school. But there were Super Soakers, so that poster wasn't completely wrong.
Likewise this poster.◊ The four leads don't tie Dennis to a stake at any point in the movie.
Decoy Protagonist: Walter, who is set up as Mud's best friend. It's actually Zack who becomes one of the four protagonists; Walter spends the majority of the film as a minor supporting character.
Gaby: Ashley, mushroom. Amber, onion. Lenny, plain. Lenny: Cheese. Gaby: You said plain. Lenny: Cheese. Gaby: Plain. Lenny: Cheese. Gaby: Plain. Lenny: Cheese. Gaby: Plain. Lenny: Cheese. Gaby: Plain. Lenny: Cheese. Gaby: Cheese. Lenny: Plain. Gaby: Okay, fine, you win. Plain. [He looks confused and wanders off] Gaby: Who says you can't learn anything from cartoons?
Education Mama: Mud's dad is a rare male version. He's constantly opining that Mud "has potential," and keeps pushing Mud to grow up early. Mud complains that his dad treats him like he's unemployed. Mud is 12.
Zack: I say, just give me the money, I'll buy a Harley, and be outta your way the whole summer. Mud: That kind of money, we could just rent our own camp. Zack: Whoa...whoa! What'd you say?
Fake Real Turn: The kids set up a fake summer camp in order to get away from the adults, but then when parents insist on coming to the camp halfway through the summer, they have to devise a way to make the camp seem real.
Mud learns about responsibility and learns how to speak up for himself. Plus, Gaby convinces him that it's okay to be Adorkable, since it makes Mud his own person. Because of all this, by the end of the movie, Mud's father is a bit more willing to let his son be a kid for a while.
Gaby decides that she's sick of eating junk food.
Zack decides to drop the Jerkass Façade, be less selfish, and not drop out of school. He and Trish become an item.
There's the plot about Dennis and his financial woes with Polk, though it's punctuated by Dennis' romance with Celeste.
Then there are the very minor subplots about Walter wanting to skinny dip with Betty, and Zack rebuilding an old car.
Four Temperament Ensemble: You could argue that Gaby is Sanguine, Trish is Choleric, Zack is Melancholic, and Mud is Phlegmatic.
Free-Range Children: Played with. Mud and his friends start out playing the trope straight during their adventures recruiting Dennis and setting up the camp. However, some ramifications of being a free-range child are felt later on, and the characters realize that they need adults in their lives more often than they previously thought. Still, they're pretty resourceful right up until the ploy falls apart.
Gilligan Cut: When Mud gives the others some of the spending money.
Mud: Be careful how you spend it, all right? Because it's gotta last for the whole summer. Besides, we don't want to draw attention to ourselves, all right? Arnold: We're not gonna do anything stupid. I mean, we're not complete morons. [cut to delivery trucks unloading, among other things, Super Soakers and a big-screen TV]
Betty: You really do have the guts. Just not an extra bathing suit.
Gratuitous French / Verbal Tic: Trish's use of the word "très" (meaning "very") in nearly every other sentence. For instance, she says things like "Très dull," or "Très bizarre." Might be justified because of her upbringing.
Growing Up Sucks: The movie meanders about with this. Mud learns about responsibility and whatnot, and he begins to look forward to growing up and dating Gaby, but at the same time he refuses to eat lima beans and still acts like growing up is the worst thing in the world. He finally asserts himself and tells his father that it's okay to be a kid.
Grounded Forever: "By the way, you're grounded until you're thirty." Mud's twelve.
Heroes Want Redheads: Dennis for Celeste. Though calling Dennis a "hero", considering his actions, is a bit of a stretch.
Hollywood Law: It doesn't matter if Mud and his friends take responsibility for the camp. Dennis went along with the kids' plan and took the parents' money under false pretenses. Dennis could possibly go to jail for fraud.
I Am Spartacus: When the scheme is blown, all the other kids stand up and take responsibility alongside Mud.
If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: Invoked by Gaby and Dennis when they trick her mother into sending her to the (hypothetical) fitness camp. They sample some camp cuisine—Dennis and Gaby eat real chocolate cake, and Gaby's mom is given something that convinces her the camp must be doing something right with its food.
Dennis: Yours is Betty Crocker. Hers is raw liver paste.
Lost Aesop: The film isn't very clear with its final message. Be Yourself? Be sure to pay your debts? It's okay to be a kid? It's okay to grow up? Don't start a phony summer camp? It could be anything, really.
Master of Disguise: This is one of Dennis' talents. He uses it to escape the law, and it's how he's able to pretend to be a representative from any type of summer camp. Justified, since he's a former drama teacher.
Military School: It's where Zack usually gets sent, since he's a delinquent and all.
Missing Trailer Scene: Scores of '90s kids (as well as the Chicago Tribune) were left wondering what happened to the "popcorn omelet" scene. Trailers for the home video release, however, obviously didn't include it.
Pun: Barely a minute into the movie and we get Micro-Chippewa Camp, a summer camp for computer geeks.
Rain, Rain, Go Away: A rainy day keeps the kids indoors. When they start talking about abandoning the camp, going home, and watching Baywatch on cable, Mud and Dennis organize some rainy day Olympic games to keep them occupied.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Hendricks is just a polite state trooper doing his job. He does get reasonably upset when he loses track of the yellow Gremlin during a pursuit, and again later on when the ruse is uncovered.
Clerk: ID? You gotta be 19 to buy this stuff. Zack: No problemo. [hands over ID] Clerk: You were born in 1963? Zack: Yeah. Clerk: So that would make you? Zack: 21. Clerk: No. This is 1994. That would make you 31. Trish: Wrong! If he was born in 1963, and he's 21, then it's 1984! Uh!
Secret Keeper: Celeste is pushed into this role when she drives by the camp and sees Mud (whom Dennis had told her was his son) partying with the other kids. She makes it quite clear that she's not happy about it.
At the end of the movie, Polk shows up at precisely the wrong moment at the very end of The Con, and he and Mud's dad stumble into the ruse right as the kids are toasting their victory. Had Polk shown up any later, the ruse could have been kept up.
Technology Marches On: Have a look at the cutting edge early-90's computers and NESes! Plus, the entire ploy would have been meaningless had Google existed in 1994 — though it's not much of a stretch to believe that Mud could've easily set up websites for the non-existent camps (à la Accepted) had the movie been made later in the decade.
Third Act Stupidity: After having spent the entire movie managing to keep from getting busted, and after spending most of Parents' Day fooling the parents, the kids start celebrating their victory before the last group of parents has left. Had the kids paid ANY attention to their security monitors, they would have noticed Polk at the front gate. Things obviously get worse when Polk runs into Mud's dad.