The film was screened at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, and was later released straight-to-DVD in 2002.
When the rule-enforcing camp director at Camp Bleeding Dove gets struck by lightning, the counselors find themselves in sole charge of their campers, and themselves. Among them are the brooding and intellectual Wichita; Wendy, who is guileless and unabashedly religious; Talia, an outcast and former college friend of Wichita's; Pixel, a waifish hippie who bathes in the camp lake; Jasper, an openly gay man; the brutish Adam; and Donald, a nerdy and unconfident virgin.
Wichita, who initially finds himself repulsed by Wendy who is his polar opposite, begins to find himself attracted to her, and the two begin to court one another while the rest of the campers and counselors look on. An atheist, Wichita begins to question his belief in God after he finds a photo of himself as a child in the background of one of Wendy's family photos at Mount Rushmore; however, he does not tell her about it. The two eventually admit their feelings for one another, and Wendy loses her virginity to Wichita after having an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
Meanwhile, Talia, who has feelings for Wichita, becomes disillusioned after he admits he simply wants to be friends; she later finds he and Wendy have become physically involved. Donald, urged by the rest of the counselors, attempts to court Talia, but she is resistant. Wendy, in order to test the legitimacy of Wichita's feelings for her, has Pixel attempt to seduce him in the woods. Wichita, who overheard their plan, kisses Pixel in front of her, and Wendy leaves in tears, believing he failed the test.
On the penultimate day of camp, Wichita confesses to Wendy that he had purposely failed she and Pixels' test; the same day in the woods, Adam confronts Pixel over their sexual relationship, and she rejects him, saying that their relationship was just a fling for her. At the camp mess hall, Donald and Talia incite a riot with the campers, and they all run into the woods in body paint and attack Adam, Pixel, Wichita, and Wendy with condoms fashioned into water balloons.
The next day, as Wendy and Pixel prepare to leave, Wendy notices that half of her family photo from Mount Rushmore has been torn off, which Wichita had taken and eaten to dispose of. As the campers and counselors prepare to leave, the children confess how much they meant to them. On the bus ride back, Wendy is forced to sit next to Wichita. Donald takes a photo of them with a camper in-between, asking them to smile for the photo, which appears on the cover of the following year's camp staff manual.Brad Renfro as Wichita
Dominique Swain as Wendy
Keram Malicki-Sanchez as Jasper
Emily Bergl as Talia
Jaime King as Pixel
Justin Long as Donald
Jordan Bridges as Adam
Peter Stormare as Oberon
Ryan Adams as "Bad Boy Billy"
Trevor Christensen as Wes
Happy Campers was shown at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2001. However, it did not receive a theatrical release; instead, it was released straight-to-DVD by New Line Cinema in 2002.
The film received a 57% positive rating based on 7 critics' reviews on the film review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Jeffrey Anderson of Combustible Celluloid gave the film a positive review, writing: "This hilarious little gem from Daniel Waters, the screenwriter of Heathers, went straight to video because the distributor couldn't figure out exactly what to do with it. In this vicious, odd summer camp story, everyone wants to be like cool counselor Brad Renfro, every imaginable disaster comes to light, and the gorgeous James (Jaime) King frolics half-naked by the lakeside. Before long, this will be a cult favorite and people will be quoting lines at parties. Don't miss it."
Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club called the film a "cross between Wet Hot [American Summer] and A Midsummer Night's Dream" and deemed it "a worthy followup to [Waters'] Heathers."