A likably low-rent, low-ambition entry into a genre whose standard-bearer, Meatballs, doesn’t set the bar very high, Mike Stasko’s Boys Vs. Girls goes to summer camp for its promised battle of the sexes. Veteran comic performers Colin Mochrie and Kevin McDonald rep Team Canada well in this Canuck production (even if the former is better utilized than the latter), whose generic 1990-set action could take place just about anywhere hormone-addled teens are thrown together without parental supervision.
Mochrie plays Roger, who has shepherded kids for years at Camp Kindlewood, where July has always been set aside for boys and August for girls. In the summer of 1990, though, things get complicated: The big corporation that owns the camp — aren’t summer camps a last bastion of mom-and-popness? — has decided to go co-ed. Some traditions will have to die — like the “pee where you want” policy for the boys, and the girls’ beloved pastime of Tomacock. (Think Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but with a hatchet and a different body part.)
Good for a few chuckles.
You’d think this would be welcome news at least for the older teens employed every year as counselors. Instead, these kids are as cootie-scared as their charges (who are little-seen here). Taking cues from respective leaders Dale (Eric Osborne) and Amber (Rachel Dagenais) — who were almost a couple back in high school, until Dale fumbled while flirting and made an enemy of Amber — each group decides to make the other miserable.
Cue some entirely unoriginal antagonism, in which underwear is stolen, body odors are mocked, and girls help boys remember how vulnerable they are to the sight of a little midriff. It’s all fun and games until the inevitable revelation: This camp’s going to be closed down unless our heroes join forces to make it look like a model of teenage harmony.
Stasko flirts a bit with the kind of genre-savvy meta humor employed increasingly in every iteration of the Wet Hot American Summer franchise. But he waits very late to do so and doesn’t commit when it happens. At any rate, he doesn’t appear to be the director to pull off that kind of Wain/Showalter-y stuff: Here and with more conventional comic bits, his execution falls short of the flashes of wit in his script.
Many members of the cast would seemingly have been up to the task if given sharper direction. Jesse Camacho fares well in the requisite charismatic-chubby-kid role (happily, there’s minimal body-mockery here); Dagenais is crisp and smart in a way that doesn’t shout out “I deserve better than this.” While the script hardly fleshes out supporting characters beyond facile stereotypes, some players like Nia Roam and Romeo Carere make the most of what they’re given.
A memorable finale would have gone a long way, but Stasko has little to offer. Judgment day — when the suits “from corporate” come to render judgment — is as underwhelming as the flat photography and design, which peg the film from the start as a bargain-basement affair. But how much effort can you expect in a genre whose most memorable contribution to the canon of movie quotations is “it just doesn’t matter?”
Production company: The Dot Film Company
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures (VOD)
Cast: Eric Osborne, Rachel Dagenais, Jesse Camacho, Michala Brasseur, Romeo Carere, Samantha Helt, Tim DC, Nia Roam, Shaun Benson, Colin Mochrie, Kevin McDonald
Director-screenwriter: Mike Stasko
Producers: Theodore Bezaire, Mike Stasko
Executive producer: Garry Lattman
Director of photography: Kyle Archibald
Production designer: Emily Eansor
Editors: Theodore Bezaire, Mike Stasko
Casting: Jenny Lewis, Sara Kay