A Week Away desperately tries and fails to impress by presenting a Christian musical rip-off of Disney channel original movies.
Netflix’s latest film, A Week Away, presents two distinct movies. The first is a somewhat watchable (but insanely predictable) rom-com telling the story of Will Hawkins (Kevin Quinn), a teenage delinquent who is now being sent to a juvenile detention center after stealing a police car. Desperate not to go there, Will’s counselor gives him one final chance. He sends Will with a foster family to Camp Aweegaway. There, he instantly falls in love with Avery (Bailee Madison), the camp owner (David Koechner)’s daughter. For an unknown reason, the second film is a Christian musical, where many of the camp members will suddenly break out into song to preach about The Bible and how God heals all. Combine the two, and you have a half-formulaic teen rom-com and a half-incessantly annoying musical that desperately wants to be the Christian version of Camp Rock and/or High School Musical.
Let’s get this straight out of the way: there was no reason for A Week Away to be a musical. In fact, the songs are pretty much the only times when the film suddenly talks about Christianity, which feels wholly detached from what it supposedly wants to tell. The characters suddenly burst into song to share their feelings for specific protagonists or try to move the film’s plot, but it does the exact opposite. Every song stops the movie dead in its tracks. For example, as Will and his foster brother George (Jahbril Cook) arrive at the camp, everyone starts to sing about how great the camp and the Lord are. While all of that would have been fine if it had helped develop Will’s arc, all that it does is distract the audience, by filling out supposedly character-developing sequences with poorly edited and choreographed flashy musical numbers instead. It doesn’t help that most of the songs feel entirely uninspired and ripped out of Disney Channel original movies. For instance, Best Thing Ever’s lyrical and musical patterns could remind you of “We’re All In This Together” from the first High School Musical, instead of being interwoven in the story.
That’s one of the main problems with many mainstream Christian movies: some of them try to rip-off popular films and badly insert their Biblical messages in them in a way that feels wholly robotic and out-of-touch. The best example of this would be Gabriel Sabloff’s Beckman, whichis a Christian rip-off of Taken, which tells the story of a contract killer, now a reverend, who must save her daughter and exact revenge on the ones that kidnapped her. There are a few minor differences from Taken, most notably the main character isn’t a CIA agent, but the plotline is almost exactly the same, with out-of-place Biblical messaging throughout. The best type of Christian films are the ones that question faith and religion, indirectly challenging audiences to rethink how the world perceives divine figures. Most recently, these questions were explored brilliantly in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and his new cut of Justice League. A Week Away doesn’t want to challenge or question audiences on faith–Christianity is only used in this movie to spread a one-sided view of the religion.
For the most part, A Week Away’s protagonists don’t talk about God during non-singing scenes, but when they suddenly start singing, it’s all about how excellent is thy name. That could’ve been fine if the characters frequently talked about The Bible, and the camp felt like it was a “Bible Summer Camp” instead of “Warrior Game” activities, which is why whenever someone mentions “God” during a song, it feels terribly jarring and completely out-of-place.
Speaking of the two protagonists’ arc, we’ve all seen it before (in every Christian film made by the studio formerly known as PureFlix, now Pinnacle Peak Pictures). An atheist white male who had a devastating childhood is sent to summer camp to avoid harsher punishment. However, he starts to realize the existence of a higher power once he meets someone who also had a quasi-similar tragic event in their childhood, with a solid attachment to religion. The vision of Christianity presented in those movies is usually an ultra-conservative, almost cult-like viewpoint of God; that He exists in all spheres and will accomplish miracles if you continuously pray for guidance or healing. Man, if only it were that easy in real life.
The rest of the movie is a pretty unmemorable, formulaic rom-com that follows every beat of an uninspired, paint-by-numbers rip-off of Camp Rock that genuinely wants to impress but can never be taken seriously. Ryan Quinn and Bailee Madison give fine performances, and there are a few scenes where their chemistry is genuinely palatable, but the movie’s screenplay feels way too familiar for its own good. There isn’t much to clamor in this film–it’s an uninteresting movie that desperately wants to impress its audience by attempting to be an awe-inspiring, uplifting Christian musical…but does the exact opposite. There are infinitely better musicals to watch instead of A Week Away. Why not experience (or rewatch) the Camp Rock movies and the High School Musical trilogy instead? You will spend your time much better.
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