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Staff & contributors

You don’t have to be a theater kid to enjoy this feel-good mockumentary set in a summer camp for junior thespians. While there are plenty of in-jokes here for those who might have spent a summer or two somewhere like AdirondACTS, Theater Camp also good-naturedly lampoons every instantly recognizable stereotype of theater kids and the classic failed-performer-turned-teacher. 

Amongst the note-perfect ensemble, particularly hilarious standouts include co-writer Ben Platt and co-director Molly Gordon as camp instructors and best friends Amos and Rebecca-Diane. Both are Juilliard rejects with codependency issues and a classic case of actorly self-indulgence — as encapsulated in the moment they accuse a young attendee of “doping” for using artificial tears during a performance (“Do you want to be the Lance Armstrong of theater?”). But even seasoned performers like Platt and Gordon can’t pull the spotlight away from the film’s absurdly talented young ensemble, who are just as game for poking fun at their passion: standouts include Luke Islam, Alexander Bello, and Minari’s Alan Kim as a pint-sized “aspiring agent” who skips dance class to make business calls. All this self-satirising never obscures the movie’s heart, though; what begins as a self-deprecating ribbing of theater-heads ultimately becomes a rousing love letter to those very same misfits.

Genre: Comedy, Music

Actor: Alan Kim, Alexander Bello, Amy Sedaris, Ayo Edebiri, Ben Platt, Caroline Aaron, David Rasche, Dean Scott Vazquez, Donovan Colan, Jimmy Tatro, Kyndra Sanchez, Luke Islam, Max Sheldon, Molly Gordon, Nathan Lee Graham, Noah Galvin, Owen Thiele, Patti Harrison, Priscilla Lopez, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson

Director: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman

Rating: PG-13

Primarily, Cha Cha Real Smooth follows Andrew (Cooper Raiff) as he figures out what to do with his life post-college. But peripherally, it’s also about love, friendship, coming of age, and parenthood. Sometimes the movie wobbles under the weight of all it wants to be and you start to wonder whether it would benefit from a leaner script and a tighter focus. 

But ultimately, Cha Cha Real Smooth is endearing and a breeze to watch. Andrew is relatable as a know-it-all who doesn’t actually know it all, and Domino (Dakota Johnson) is moving as a young mother consumed by both her envy and love for Andrew. Despite its occasional unevenness, the film’s big emotional heart triumphs, and sometimes that’s the best that you can hope for in a story about one’s 20s.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amara Pedroso, Brad Garrett, Chris Newman, Colton Osorio, Cooper Raiff, Corrie Danieley, Dakota Johnson, Davina Reid, Evan Assante, John Paul Hurley, Jonathan Berry, Kelly O'Sullivan, Leslie Mann, Lisa Velten Smith, Odeya Rush, Raúl Castillo, Tommy Lafitte, Vanessa Burghardt

Director: Cooper Raiff

Rating: R