Can a Christian comedic movie really work? For so many years, movie executives have traditionally stayed away from making such films because they didn’t want to walk the tightrope of spiritual decency trying to keep audiences happy.
With the exception of Mom’s Night Out in 2014, and an occasional comedic quip in a Kendrick Brothers release, no faith-based film has really been willing to straddle the line between being tasteful and tasteless … until now.
Releasing nationwide in theaters this week, Family Camp hopes to break down a few barriers when it comes to making audiences laugh out loud within the context of faith.
Starring The Skit Guys (Tommy Woodard, Eddie James), Leigh-Allyn Baker (Good Luck, Charlie, Will & Grace), and Robert Amaya (Courageous, Mom’s Night Out), Family Camp centers on two seemingly polar-opposite families assigned to the same cabin for a rather topsy-turvy week at church camp. Needless to say, hijinks ensue … and then some!
I recently sat down with Disney Channel alum Baker to discuss the role of comedy in faith-based films, the future of Christian movies, and whether two families can actually co-exist in the same cabin.
If you were trying to get a friend to go see the movie, Family Camp, how would you describe it to them?
I would describe it as a comedy because I have to tell you, I read this script and I laughed. I laughed out loud multiple times. I couldn’t believe how funny it was. There are moments where I would be reading, thinking they’re not going to go there. They’re not going to go there. And then, oh my goodness, they went there. There’s no reason that family friendly Christian faith-based movies can’t be funny. I think that that has been missing from the faith-based community far too long.
What attracted you to the role of Grace Ackerman? Did you see any similarities in yourself as related to the role?
Yeah, I did. I really did. When I was auditioning for the role, I turned to my friend and said, ‘I know I’m going to get this part.’ It’s one of those roles that I knew because she kind of was me. Here’s this woman who’s busy and trying to manage her family. And she’s trying to find a closer relationship with God and her faith. This is something that’s so hard to do in this world. I always say that her name is Grace, not because she has so much grace, but because so much grace has been afforded to her. So, she kind of walks a bumpy road, and I walk that bumpy road too. I feel like when she goes to family camp, it was very similar to the story of me going to do the movie, Family Camp. I feel like we shared a similar journey.
The movie is based around the Ackerman family who goes to a family camp . While there, they meet up with a bunch of people, but specifically another family. This family means well, but they always seem to create weird situations for themselves and others around them. Have you ever been in a situation like this before, where you’ve been around someone or a group of people who meant well, but just seem to be a little too overbearing for you?
Yeah, I grew up doing theater. (laughs) So, yes, absolutely. There are those types of people everywhere you go. And I’ve learned to love those people because I just get a kick out of someone unapologetically for just being themselves full throttle. And I just love that about this family, that they are so loopy but that there is a grounded reality to them that comes out and grows as the movie goes on. You really get to know what’s behind the curtain.
You have been quoted as saying, “There is a real hole a real hole in the movie world when it comes to family comedies.” For years, comedy movies were an important driver at the box office. So why do you think we’ve experienced this “hole” in recent years?
I think that we all started taking ourselves too seriously. We all started taking our lives too seriously. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on self-importance. And I think that has gotten in the way of us being able to laugh at ourselves. In particular, the family comedy has all but died and it needs a revival. Big time. Let’s be honest, right now all comedy has died. You’re not allowed to laugh at anything which is ridiculous. We should be allowed to laugh at everything. If you can’t laugh, you’re going to cry. I would prefer to laugh.
What excites you most about being a part of this project?
What excites me the most about it is that I’m watching something that’s never been made before, find its footing and kind of take off. I feel like this movie is really a little plane on a big runway and it’s got open space in front of it. It is just ready to soar. I feel that this movie can reach so many people and I believe that everyone will be entertained by this movie. It will invite more people to the table.
Faith-based films have made some significant inroads in recent years due to the success of recent hits like American Underdog, I Can Only Imagine, and War Room. As someone who has been in the entertainment industry for a while, what are your thoughts on the quality and success of these movies getting much better as we go along?
I’m so excited to see the quality getting better. At first, actors really didn’t want to do them. Even I was nervous about a few that I got early on, which actually turned out to be really successful and really good movies. But you get nervous about doing something that is not quality entertainment. You’ve got to be able to tell a story. Something that’s got a beginning, middle and end. You can’t just get up there and preach a sermon. You must tell a story. It is a movie. It is a certain medium. So you have to have the message, the heart, and the faith of a Christian, but you’ve got to have good structure, good quality, and good talent to make it a great movie.
What are some valuable life lessons that people can learn from this movie?
I think one of the things that you learn in this movie is that nobody is perfect and nobody’s family is perfect. We need to get this image out of our head of what we think our family should be. We need to enjoy where our family is and really find joy in the journey because that’s what this life is really about.
After people have seen Family Camp, what would you like to see audiences take away from the viewing experience? What’s your greatest hope for this film?
I have deep hopes and I have simple hopes. My simple hope is that people go see it and laugh to increase their endorphins and come out of this movie feeling really good because they got to laugh with people in a theater. That’s one of the magical things about going to see a movie in that you get to share the adventure, the thrill, and the laughter of being in that room together for that experience. So, that’s kind of my simple hope. My big hope is that we have a sequel and another and another. I really hope it shows the humanity of Christians and how human and faulted we are. But at the end of the day, our faith lies with Him.
Please Watch a Trailer for Family Camp: