camp cucamonga title card

Despite being right smack in the middle of winter, I can’t help thinking about summer. In stark contrast to the cold air outside, my mind is fixated on BBQs, beach trips, and lots of outdoor fun, booze, and grilled meats I could be indulging in.

Besides all of the classic summer weekend nostalgia, however, it also reminds me of one of the fundamental pieces of childhood comedic entertainment: 90s SUMMER CAMP MOVIES. Kids in these movies get to live fantastical lives full of romance and debauchery simply because they’re sleeping in bunks in the woods away from competent adult supervision. The owner of the camp is too busy worrying about the business end of things and the counselors are too busy fucking each other for any of them to give a damn about what the kids are doing. Oh, the beauty of summer camps.

There are obvious choices for summer camp movies to cover, but many of them have been done to death. Not that they’re lacking in quality, but I’m choosing to explore the often-overlooked category of made for TV movies. They’re the delightfully low-budget pieces of Americana that can you make you laugh, cry, and wonder why the fuck you’re even watching them in the first place.

Today, we’re taking a big yellow bus into the woods to spend a few precious hours with some familiar faces at Camp Cucamonga.

Before we get into the meat of the story, it’s important to note just how many early 90s teen and adult sitcom starts are a part of this lovable adventure. There’s a supergroup-level cast of household names all roped together into a beautiful melting pot of television memories. It’s certainly enough to make you overlook the generic story and moronic dialogue.

camp cucamonga cast

The who’s who starts with Chad Allen from My Two Dads. He’s the pretty boy love interest of the film, but he’s already in a relationship with Full House’s Candace Cameron. Danica McKellar from The Wonder Years is the weird girl who is trying to upstage the prissy Candace Cameron and steal her boyfriend, while Josh Saviano plays a geeky character (way outside of his range, huh?) who is desperate to make this the best summer yet.

John Ratzenberger from Cheers is the owner of the camp and his wife is the rich bimbo from Mama’s Family, while his daughter is a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston. Brian Robbins from Head of the Class and director of such Oscar-worthy films as Good Burger, Ready To Rumble, Norbit, and Meet Dave is the camp counselor with the pussy addiction who eventually scams his way into the ice queen Aniston’s pants.

Urkel himself, Jaleel White, actually plays a hip kid in this movie as he performs rap songs and smooth talks his way into a steamy relationship with a fellow camper.

Rounding out the cast is Sherman Hemsley from The Jeffersons, pre-Clueless Breckin Meyer as the most 90s prankster kid of all time, and G. Gordon Liddy (the perpetrator of the Nixon-ruining Watergate scandal) in his first comedic acting role.

It’s a veritable who’s who of pop culture icons spanning 3 decades and tickles my nostalgia boner like a trip to a dingy dirt mall. It’s very much like a living time capsule.

The film opens with a great series of introductions to all of the characters that perfectly sets up all of the various stereotypes that we’ll be treated with for the rest of the film. Jennifer Aniston drives the bus and tries to keep order, Breckin Meyer skateboards around the aisles and nails people with water balloons, and Danica McKellar stares longingly out the window and argues with Candace Cameron while she chats inanely with her boyfriend. Jaleel White tricks the new age hippie fortune teller girl to switch seats so he can mack on her cute friend, a fat kid never stops eating and gets a stomach ache, and the tattle tail kid avoids getting hit in the face with a water balloon so that the motorcycle-riding Brian Robbins can duck and let his girlfriend get hit in the face instead. In this short little tidbit we learn everything we need to know about the main cast of characters and their initial motivations, all to the tune of some beautifully cheesy 90s rock song. This is what filmmaking is all about.

If you couldn’t already figure it out, the movie is set at a summer camp. The plot focuses on the endless pranks, romances, and mishaps that the campers and counselors get themselves into. There’s a camp inspection gone wrong, several love stories, loads of teen angst, a camper’s parents getting divorced, and campers getting lost in the woods to add to the already-adequate amount of subplots. The very best moment of the film, however, is when the campers get together to make a homemade rap video to promote the camp. Here it is in all of its glory:

When all is said and done, the movie is just your standard summer camp shenanigans, but the packaging of all of these teen stars in one film is enough to make it worth at least a single viewing. If you’re a super nerd about nostalgia like me, though, you’ll want to give it plenty of repeat viewings to memorize bits of dialogue and sing along with the shitty songs.

After all, Camp Cucamonga is the place that’s hip.

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