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Directionless teens on the cusp of adulthood is pretty much a genre all its own and for those wrapped around a high school sex romp, well, the titles seem endless and as rampant nostalgia for the 80s continues to sweep the industry, studios are reaching back a lot more often to cash in. Now comes Pitching Tents, a title that itself harkens back to many classic direct-to-video and late night cable flicks that had young boys learning all about how to party and waiting with eager eyes for even a hint of a nude girl. Not that I’d know anything about that.
The film centers on confused high school senior Danny (Michael Grant) who, like many his age, isn’t sure what is next or how to get there. He’s getting pressure from whacky school guidance counselor Mr. Mulligan (Jim Norton) to go to college and from his father (Eric Allan Kramer), who plans for him to start working right away in a hard hat job with him. Meanwhile, this weekend is the annual Trout Camp fishing contest where the kids all go to party and the boys all hunt for the legendary Goddess Camp where supposedly beautiful girls spend their days skinny dipping. When Danny actually finds that camp, a lovely girl named Alison (Samantha Basalari) helps him get his life back on track.
Directed by Jacob Cooney, Pitching Tents is a male fantasy film in the same vein as 80s genre-defining films such as Meatballs, Porky’s, and a dozen others of the ilk, though the decades between have rendered it a bit toothless as sensibilities and over-familiarity keep the party stuff generally ineffective, if not occasionally funny. With far less raunch than the movies of the past, Pitching Tent is mostly a breezy teen sex comedy, which by definition means it really isn’t a sex comedy at all as there is nearly no sex, only a flash of nudity from a distance and the most offensive character is, well, one of the adults.
While it plays up the tropes of the films it homages to, with a milquetoast protagonist surrounded by overly-horny pals with only girls and beer on their minds – the stereotypes all lined up from the geeky virgin to the long-haired tripped doper and the slick jock – Pitching Tents somehow finds a little heart in it all with some genuine relationships and a few charming turns from the young cast. While Norton’s Mulligan goes well off the path and often veers the tone off course (taste may vary), it generally resets when it gets back to the main cast, all of whom seem to get what Cooney is after.
The greater miracle in all of this is the outstanding soundtrack, which is positively bubbling over with great classic 80s rock, pop, and hip hop tracks, though the score itself is an oddly moody, twangy indie guitar piano collection of strums and chords that don’t quite fit the overall comedic tone of the movie, even if the last act is much more grounded in reality. In fact, if anything, it is this part of the movie that works best, a departure from the setup that is long in the getting to but makes for a satisfying, if not predictable emotional finish. It redefines almost entirely what the movie is about and indeed, separates itself farthest from the decade that inspired it, making this a step up from what is expected.
Movie description: Pitching Tents is a 2017 comedy about a high schooler torn about his future until a chance encounter in the woods changes everything.
Director(s): Jacob Cooney
Actor(s): Jonathan Lipnicki, Booboo Stewart, Kevin P. Farley