A Week Away movie review & film summary (2021)


The story begins with orphaned teen Will Hawkins (Kevin Quinn, who looks like he could be Zac Efron’s nephew) fleeing a police officer on foot, guitar in hand. We later learn that he’s a delinquent minor with a long rap sheet that includes such funny-rebellious offenses as stealing a cop car and putting his high school up for sale on Craigslist. (There were offers.) Will is given a one-week stint at a Christian youth summer camp in lieu of criminal charges, which is how you know that the hypothetical audience for this movie is middle-class, suburban, and white. Will was arrested without bodily harm, but a Black kid from anywhere in the United States who stole a cop car likely wouldn’t be, and it’s hard to imagine that The System would go out of its way to find reasons not to prosecute him. The film tries to inoculate itself against charges of racial cluelessness by placing Will in the care of a Black foster mother (Sherri Shepherd’s Kristin) who works at the aforementioned camp and has an earnest, nerdy teenaged son named George (Jahbril Cook). 

Will bunks with George at Camp Aweegaway (a week away, get it?), and each falls for a delightful girl and woos her when they aren’t trying to win assorted competitions. Will is smitten with Avery (Bailee Madison), the adorable daughter of the camp’s director (David Koechner, the perfect actor for a role like this; he looks like half the beer-bellied, motivational cliche-shouting high school gym coaches in America). George makes a play for Avery’s cute but socially awkward pal (Kat Conner Sterling), and slowly overcomes his poor-self image with the support of the much cooler Will. There’s a fun, short fantasy musical number, reminiscent of a Super Bowl halftime show or a grand finale musical number on “American Idol,” set right after Will does a “makeover” on him, and a few other moderately engaging numbers set on arrival day, in the camp’s cafeteria, and in and around the swimming hole. There’s almost nothing in the way of dramatic stakes, though, save for a very brief third-act interlude where Will faces the consequences of lying to Avery about his criminal past. This, of course, is a false sort of “conflict” because we know Avery would never cut the handsome, considerate, sensitive Will loose over such a minor transgression. The “villain” in the movie, a lanky redhead played by Iain Tucker, isn’t all that threatening or menacing. His main sins are competitive pride, jealousy, and an overweening smugness. 

As written by Alan Powell and Gabe Vasquez, and directed by veteran music video director Roman White (who has multiple credits with Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and Taylor Swift), “A Week Away” feels like an evangelical Christianity-infused Disney Channel movie, if that’s not a redundant phrase: there’s always been a fair bit of crossover between the cable outlet’s cute but bland teen (actually preteen-targeted) sitcoms and musicals, and the American “if it’s not rated G, it’s not Christian” entertainment marketplace. The film excels at fast-paced verbal comedy, expertly channeling that post-1970s screwball comedy thing where the actors talk around and over each other while delivering exposition, even carrying on sardonic side discussions while another character is engrossed in their monologue. Powell and Vasquez squeeze in a few self-mocking or nearly satirical exchanges that poke fun at evangelical Christian youth organization cliches, like how teens who’ve been on missions lord that over teens who haven’t. 

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