A preteen is sent to summer camp and learns to have confidence in himself and control his overactive imagination.
MAX SPECKLE has an extremely overactive imagination. He often finds himself lost in a fantasy world of his own creation, and as a result his grades and social life suffer. In an effort for him to make friends, Max’s mother sends him away to summer camp, where he meets a group of boys who dislike him at first but grow to see why he’s special. The campers train in anticipation of the Color War, a contest between a rival camp that tests their athleticism and cleverness. This terrifies Max, who is still escaping into his imagination and can’t seem to control when he’ll fantasize and when he’ll remain in reality. During the capture-the-flag game that concludes the Color War, Max uses his imaginative powers to grab the other team’s flag and become the hero he’s always dreamed of being. He also helps an immature counselor, C.J., realize his dream of going to medical school.
The story is cute and good for the 10-14 crowd, but the one thing that sets it apart from every other summer-camp movie on the planet—Max’s elaborate fantasy life—is also the thing that destroys the story. There are simply too many of these fantasy sequences, and none of them pay off enough to justify the excess. Some of them are cute, some of them are pointless, but there’s an average of about 1.5 fantasy sequences per page, and the only thing they do is show that Max has an overactive imagination, which is understood by page 10. It might benefit from a reduction in these fantasies.
The other big issue is the Color War sequence, which goes on for far too long. What actually occurs within the Color War could be very interesting, but there’s no time spent establishing the stakes of the competition. Why does it matter if the campers at Roaring Creek beat the evil kids at Camp Victory? This conflict is not established and isn’t portrayed as particularly important.
Finally, another story issue is the subplot with C.J. trying to impress Suzy and considering going to medical school. It’s a little mature for this kid-friendly script, and why does it matter? It exists solely to inflate the page count.