This was certainly one of the more interesting musicals I've seen in ages. If anything, the most interesting parts were some of the random external details like the fact that this is the first movie of the top twelve credited cast members. And the only movie listed on IMDB for all but one of them... And while Todd Graff had acted in, wrote, and produced many films before this was his first try at directing. In many ways the relative inexperience of a lot of the people involved did show through. Much of the film seemed rather unpolished, especially some of the acting and quite a bit of the writing. Characters would pop in and out with very little work on expanding them tying them in and you often couldn't even tell why they were all there. Many were introduced early so they could have musical numbers later on and then ignored. Others, such as the sports councilor, seemed to have just been inserted for the purpose of a couple stupid (though quite amusing) gags before disappearing with no explanation at all.
While things like that could practically destroy many films these flaws disappeared quickly behind everything else this one had to offer. If nothing else, this was worth it for the music. This was an amazingly talented cast and I'm really hoping many of them continue to find work in movie musicals in the future. They all had a tremendous amount of energy which worked especially well for the characters they were playing. Their inexperience could show through sometimes but it was never enough to really detract from everything else.
Picking out a single plot to this film was rather difficult, in part thanks to the way the characters were handled. Most of the screen time focuses on Vlad, made out as the sole straight guy in the entire camp. We don't see him or the ones he's around performing on stage much but we do see the rest of the came. We also see others such as Fritzi and Bert struggling with their own personal problems and while they follow their own course they seem more like secondary ideas than any large portion of the plot. Honestly, they were two of my favorite parts though, especially Fritzi's rather sudden personality changes (with the wonderful portrayal by Anna Kendrick) and I've love to see both of them in more films. And with all the complexity of Bert and everything he goes through I can't believe Don Dixon (II) hasn't been in anything else before this.
My rating tends to give this film a bit of slack because of the budget and the inexperience of the people involved. But it really is a lot of fun and if you like musicals at all you should definitely go see it. It might not be the best I've ever seen but it's one of the best in a long time... Plus, you just can't pass up a chance to see a wonderful cameo appearance by Stephen Sondheim himself. A film about a musical theater camp just wouldn't be the same without it...
Ellen: Thirty foot rule?
Spencer: What's that?
Ellen: Means Michael has to stay thirty feet away from him until we find out if he's straight or gay.