“The following is based on a true story: There are currently over 200 boot camps similar to the tough love facilities in the world, housing tens of thousands of children. They operate with virtually no government regulation or oversight. Since the beginning of the tough love rehabilitation movement in the 1970’s hundreds of thousands of kids have gone through these or similar programs. There have been over 40 deaths in the camps. There are no statistics on how many lives have been irreparably damaged.”
The following review is based on a true viewing. Well… not exactly a true viewing at all. You see, Fox has seen fit to send us a non-final product screener of Boot Camp. That means a DVD-R in a sleeve. That also means plenty of compression artifact to go along with the 2.8 mbps bit rate we’re provided. Then there’s the wonderfully entertaining 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment logo that pops up from time to time to remind us who sent the dang thing. I guess you could call it boot camp for DVD reviewers. So, I should say that the following review is based on an almost true viewing.
Got a troubled teen? You know the kinds of things I’m talking about: drugs, crime, disrespect, sex, alcohol, or just plain anti-social. Since the 1970’s there have been organizations that have taken a scared straight kind of path to deal with these kinds of kids. They are virtually dragged from their beds in the middle of the night and taken to a highly structured and severely disciplined environment to build their character. It was the modern day solution to sending your kids to a military academy or boarding school. The tactics and results of these programs has varied somewhat. Yes, there have been scandals, and yes, as the above quote reminds us, there have even been deaths. Of course, there have also been success stories. But, of course, that would not make for near as interesting a story or movie. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a very interesting movie any way.
When Sophie (Kunis) won’t stop seeing her boyfriend, her parents turn to Dr. Norman Hail (Stormare) for help. Hail runs ASAP, Advanced Serenity Achievement Program. He has a complex on a deserted island in the Fiji Islands. Sophie is kidnapped and taken to Serenity Camp. Here life is harsh. The living conditions are primitive, and Hail has developed an almost cult-like culture with his troubled teens. Here time isn’t measured in days, weeks, or even months. Here time is measured in years. Sophie’s boyfriend, Ben (Smith) fakes drug addiction to get sent to the same camp, where he hopes to rescue Sophie. Both become embroiled in a social experiment that has become more Lord Of The Flies than Utopia.
It’s hard to tell exactly what the intention was here. The quotes appear to indicate that the filmmakers were trying to raise some kind of awareness, but the film never does any such thing. It’s actually pretty unfocused and is only a string of events leading to a predictable conclusion. While trying to depict a shocking situation, the film never really shocks us that much. A rape scene that was not really a part of the story is about as shocking as this film gets. It’s almost as if everyone involved was trying not to offend anyone’s sensibilities while trying to be offensive at the same time. The film just never goes all in, and instead meanders around a group of characters we never really get to know. It’s a fair rental, but don’t expect too much here and you won’t be disappointed. It’s almost as if every time the film appears to be going somewhere, up popped a sign that said, “Don’t go past this point”.