The perception of gurus and spiritual leaders can be pretty decisive. There are some who swear to their effectiveness and life changing potential while others consider them charlatans and swindlers. The new film, Reboot Camp, uses the mockumentary format to explore both the absurdity and the scarry reality of the field.
Two brothers, Seymour (David Lipper) and Danny Barr (Keli Price), create their own fake self-help group and document all its happenings in order to show how easily people can be willingly controlled. Seymour plays the groups leader, Gordon St. Pierre, whose teachings will lead to enlightenment and bliss. By capturing the exploitive process, they hope to create an award winning and critically acclaimed documentary.
It’s interesting to see their process of developing the group. It all stems from a heartbreaking incident that causes Seymour’s marriage to end and explains his disdain for gurus. Furthermore, from the inception of the idea, it is very business minded with cultivating a brand and how to sell it to people. This economical approach is probably not too different to real world counterparts and are most likely a bigger motivator than the good intentions.
It’s pretty humorous to watch Gordon St. Pierre interact with his disciples. The tasks he asks them to perform become more and more outlandish from the use of Shake Weights and all its phallic imagery to different takes of rebirth. It’s equally entertaining to see the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the group as they hang on his every word. You can’t help but be inspired by all the positive energy because despite all the foolishness, it is making a difference in these people’s lives.
The fun cast really make these scenes including Chaz Bono as the fully committed Reboot Camper, Herbert, and Ed Begley, Jr., who plays a sceptic that’s only there for his wife. It’s taken to another level when St. Pierre attracts celebrities to his teachings. There are reality and soap opera stars and has been rockers but actor, David Koechner, and rapper, Ja Rule, stand out. It seems like an odd couple pairing but the two really feed off of each other as these exaggerated versions of themselves.
The narrative of the self-help group is enhanced by the inclusion of an academic in the area. In the documentary style, she lends her expertise explaining the various methods that cults use and why they are effective in parallel to Gordon’s techniques. To further play with this theme, the segments are introduced with a heading, however these titles are quickly changed to be less cultish and more tangible and acceptable. It really plays with the idea of what the brothers are really creating.
Later on, all the fun and games disappear and it takes a darker and more serious turn. As the budget of the brother’s documentary balloons, they are forced to include the producer’s niece, Claire, into their planning. It’s chilling to see how quickly and easily these self-help groups can shift to a cult when someone ill-intentioned is involved. Even though the movie gradually builds to this conflict, the tonal shift dampens the mood and makes it less enjoyable.
Though it executes the comedy more effectively than the serious, Reboot Camp presents a satirical and truthful look at self-help groups/cults in an amusing film.
Reboot Camp is now available rent and own on DVD and North American digital HD, internet, cable, and satellite platforms through Freestyle Digital Media.