The film centers on the experiences of several teenagers at Camp Ovation, a summer theatre camp. The campers are a mishmash of youngsters from different backgrounds, dealing with different issues, but all feel most comfortable while performing. School is out, and the campers reunite as they prepare to board the buses to Camp Ovation. Shy, self-conscious Ellen Lucas happily greets her friends, recovering from an embarrassing situation where she desperately tried to land a prom date, and ended up asking her brother. Nerdy Fritzi Wagner attempts to befriend icy diva Jill Simmons, but ends up toting her luggage instead. Returning camper Jenna Malloran laments that her parents forced her to have her jaw wired shut in order to lose weight. Upon arrival to Camp Ovation, the kids settle in. Ellen converses with her friend Michael Flores, a gay teenager who was violently beaten by his classmates after showing up to his junior prom in drag. The campers are struck dumb with the arrival of Vlad Baumann, a handsome new camper who is, as a staff member marvels, "an honest-to-god straight boy."
Camp Ovation puts on a new play or musical every two weeks. Vlad and Ellen bond after rehearsal one day and flirt a bit. However, soon afterward, Vlad is seduced by the conceited Jill, who later makes cruel cracks at Ellen for her weight and her inexperience with boys. Feeling guilty, Vlad comforts Ellen and the two begin to inch toward a relationship. The camp enlists a guest counselor for the summer: composer Bert Hanley, whose play "The Children's Crusade" was a one-hit wonder many years earlier. Frustrated with his lack of recent success, he is now a grumpy alcoholic and shows up two days late at Camp Ovation. He constantly drinks on the camp grounds and is very irritated by Vlad, who idolizes him and attempts to strike up conversation.
Jill shares a cabin with Fritzi, who is still catering to her every whim. However, after Fritzi is caught washing Jill's underwear, Jill expresses her disgust with Fritzi and kicks her out of the cabin. The usually meek Fritzi becomes filled with borderline psychotic rage, and sabotages Jill's next performance in "Company" by putting Woolite in her Snapple. As Jill vomits during her performance of "The Ladies Who Lunch," Fritzi shows up in costume and takes her place mid-song. She reveals herself to be a talented and passionate actress.
Michael is rooming with Vlad, on whom he has developed a crush. Vlad convinces Michael to invite his parents to his next play, although his father is incredibly unsupportive of his homosexuality. Though his mother tells him they will come, Michael notices mid-performance that they did not. Crushed, he flees the stage. He is found later by Vlad, who explains that he too has his share of problems. Though Vlad is a seemingly normal, all-American teenager, he reveals to Michael that he suffers from an acute type of OCD, for which he is medicated.
Hanley is angered after hearing Vlad play one of his songs, and begins to tell the campers that theater will only make them bitter and lonely, much like himself. Vlad follows a drunken Hanley back to his room and berates him for his cruel speech. After Hanley throws up and passes out, Vlad finds a trove of music that Hanley has written over the years but not released. During a rehearsal for the camp's benefit performance, Vlad and the campers sing "Century Plant", one of Hanley's songs. Hanley's heart is lifted and his disposition changes. Shortly before the benefit, Michael sleeps with Dee, Ellen's roommate, out of frustration about Vlad. When Vlad hears of this, he immediately asks Dee if it was true. Vlad and Dee end up making out on Dee's bed, and Ellen walks in on them. She runs off, hurt, and refuses to talk to Vlad.
The night of the benefit concert arrives, and the campers are starstruck as famed composer Stephen Sondheim is in attendance. The dressing room atmosphere is tense, and gets even more awkward when Vlad's girlfriend Julie shows up to see him. Meanwhile, in another act of revenge, Fritzi sabotages Jill's makeup, causing her to break out in boils. Jill attacks her, injuring her, and both are unfit to go onstage. To replace her, Bert cuts the wires on Jenna's mouth, allowing her to sing a powerful song directed to her parents in the audience, telling them to accept her as she is.
The benefit is a hit, but Vlad, Michael, and Ellen are still arguing. Vlad and Michael meet up by the lake, where Vlad strips down to gain Michael's attention. After being set straight by Michael, Vlad admits that he is an "attention junkie", and attempts to please everyone in order to gain their good favor. He apologizes to Michael for leading him on. Ellen arrives, and Vlad explains that he still cares about her, and that his girlfriend Julie had just broken up with him. After another apology, Ellen forgives him, and the three go swimming.
During the end credits, the entire cast does an elaborate rendition of Todd Rundgren's "Want of a Nail".Daniel Letterle as Vlad Baumann
Joanna Chilcoat as Ellen Lucas
Robin de Jesús as Michael Flores
Anna Kendrick as Fritzi Wagner
Alana Allen as Jill Simmons
Vince Rimoldi as Spitzer
Don Dixon as Bert Hanley
Tiffany Taylor as Jenna Malloran
Sasha Allen as Dee
Eddie Clark and Leslie Frye as Mr. and Mrs. Malloran
David Perlow as Ben Lucas
DeQuina Moore as DeQuina
Steven Cutts as Shaun
Stephen Sondheim as himself
The movie is notable as the film debut of future Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick, future two-time Tony nominee Robin de Jesús, and future The Voice contestant Sasha Allen.
The film was produced by Jersey Films, IFC Films, John Wells Productions, Killer Films, and Laughlin Park Pictures. All production took place in New York, New York, United States.
In the opening weekend, the film made $54,294. It came in ranking at #45, showing at only 3 theaters in the United States and averaging $18,098. The film's widest release took place in the UK where it showed in 116 theaters. It ran for 12 weeks and closed on October 16, 2003. It has grossed $1,629,862 since 2003. The film also hit several top 100 charts for films in numerous categories. It is number 96 in the genre of gay/lesbian independent films, 78 for Yearly PG-13 Movies for 2003, and ranked 198 for the year 2003.
Camp has received mixed to positive reviews; on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 62% "fresh" rating; the consensus states: "Campy comedy that squeaks by on its charms." On Metacritic, which uses an average of critics' reviews, the film has a 55/100 rating, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Margaret A. McGurk of The Cincinnati Enquirer says "Like the prodigies on screen, Camp powers through its imperfections, with irresistible results." James Sullivan of the San Francisco Chronicle said in his review titled "Camp," "There is lots of music and a genuine showstopper when Jenna sings "Here's Where I Stand" with such emotion that even her hardheaded dad gets the message."
Camp received nominations for the following awards:2004, Nominated for Artiors Award for Best Casting for Feature Film, Independent, Bernard Telsey
2004, Nominated for Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance, Anna Kendrick
2004, Nominated for Golden Satellite Award for Best Original Score, Stephen Trask, and Best Original Song, Bob Telson and Lee Breuer (For the song “How Shall I See You Through My Tears”)
2003, Nominated for Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival, Todd Graff
Todd Graff has confirmed a sequel funded through IndieGoGo is in the works and a web site http://www.camp2themovie.com/ has been set up for news about the new film, however as of September 2016 the website hosts a Japanese language blog. The sequel will treat the original Camp as a movie filmed at Camp Ovation rather than as the events of a previous year at the camp.