Filmed in Southern California by New Line Prods. Executive producers, Bob Saget, Sasha Emerson, Laura Gerson, Peter Morgan, Melissa Goddard; producer, Cindy Hornickel; director, Richard Michaels; writers, Sheldon Bull, Hoyt Hilsman; Asure step up from last week’s “Summertime Switch,” the opening offering from “ABC Family Movie,” this latest entry — about a non-athletic dad going on a camping spree with his 10-year-old son — doesn’t sound like a promising plan for a Saturday night TV fling. But director Richard Michaels and his cast go for the unsubtle approach, and there’s something to that.
The jaded won’t buy the premise, but Bob Saget’s individualistic Paley and Brian Bonsall as his enthusiastic son Michael set out on a school Dad & Lad camping weekend despite Paley’s misgivings. The format’s rusty, but there are a twist or two that keep the vidpic bumping along.
Paley is a true whiner, sarcastic and snide, who embarrasses his son as he takes potshots at the others on the first evening of the camp-out. He particularly riles bully Chet (David Graf), father of equally ugly-spirited Chip (ChaChi Pittman). Chet and Chip pull a couple of underhanded tricks on Paley and Michael until the inevitable moment when Chet needs Paley’s help.
Trouble is, Paley has a personality that’s annoying enough to throw off viewers, and Chet draws some sympathy. Another father, Aaron (Stuart Pankin), and son Brent (Brian Levinson) lean toward Paley’s side, while the scoutmaster (well-played by Troy Evans), who has to see accident-prone Paley to the first-aid station more than once, grows less fond as events flash past — particularly Paley’s senseless, insensitive public ridicule of the scoutmaster.
Some of Saget’s physical antics are amusing in the broad comedy, and in Paley he creates a genuine if not personable character. Acting otherwise is generally flat, except for young Bonsall, who springs a likable, gritty personality. Denver Pyle turns up as a ship’s captain and silver miner, and Heidi Swedberg fills in as Paley’s annoyed wife.
The trifling comedy by Sheldon Bull and Hoyt Hilsman (a contributor to Variety) won’t keep people gaspin’ to know what happens next, but it’s satisfactory family fodder and one of the few attempts to create a vidpic comedy , which is something. Tech credits are OK, and there are a few chuckles. There’s hope.