If you're a tween looking for some good clean fun, you could do worse than to book a summer stay at Camp Rock, the latest Disney Channel Original Movie. You could also do better, by seeking out a movie less formulaic and more creative, but this training-wheels musical in the High School Musical vein should make kids and parents alike feel their family entertainment is in good hands. That goodwill is owed mostly to the Jonas Brothers, one of the biggest pop acts on the planet, as they make their acting debuts.
Ostensibly, Camp Rock is the story of Mitchie, a middle-class girl who would like nothing better than to go to the exclusive rock-star-in-training summer camp called Camp Rock. Her parents (Ed Jaunz and Maria Canals-Barrera) can't afford it, but they score the gig of catering the summer camp and, with it, a break on Mitchie's tuition. Tight! Meanwhile, teen pop star Shane Gray (Joe Jonas) has gotten bad press for his unprofessional behavior, so his agent and his brothers (his fellow members in pop sensation "Connect 3") ship him off to Camp Rock to do PR penance teaching a hip-hop dance class and performing for the other kids.
The drama, such as it is, comes from Mitchie overcoming a major inferiority complex and Shane learning to be a more giving person while both (swoon!) fall for each other. Writers Karin Gist & Regina Y. Hicks and Julie Brown & Paul Brown wed the documentary Girls Rock! to the High School Musical formula of a preposterous lie that detonates inconveniently ("Save it for your interview with 'Pop Informer' magazine!") before a nick-of-time happy ending at a big musical performance (the Final Jam). If Mitchie and Shane are Camp Rock's Gabriella and Troy, bitchy foil Tess Tyler (Meaghan Jette Martin) is this film's Sharpay, and the wise friend content to take a back seat to Mitchie's breakthrough (Alyson Stoner) is this film's Kelsi.
Nothing in Camp Rock's plot makes a lick of sense, but to pick it apart for you would be a fool's errand. Suffice it to say that there are twelve mostly generic, but not unpleasant songs, two of them cleverly designed to dovetail in the genuinely exhilarating musical climax. At least there's a self-awareness to the fantasy, as when Shane serenades Mitchie by the lake and we hear Joe Jonas singing with himself in harmony! Their derisive discussion of "stupid cookie-cutter pop star stuff" is more than a little ironic in this Radio Disney petri dish, but at least the Jonas Brothers are a class act.
Nick and Kevin Jonas are amusing as a comedy duo, and they pitch in for some musical numbers (most prominently on "Play My Music"). The authority figures are just slightly uncool but super-caring (including '80s music-comedy queen Julie Brown, who should've written herself something better to do than smile and yelp things like "Let's kick it!"). Even the teen angst seems somehow shiny and happy. Kids with half a brain will immediately smell they're watching a deeply contrived formula piece, but it's summer, and who wants to think when you can spend a couple of hours with those dreamy Jonas Brothers?
No fools they, the folks at Walt Disney Home Entertainment have amply stocked the Camp Rock Extended Rock Star Edition with a bonus ending appliquéd to the feature and a ton of cheery featurettes and music videos. The easy-on-the-eyes transfer gleams with sunlight and color, and the music likewise shines in 5.1 Surround Sound.
The somewhat redundant Music Videos include "Start the Party" (1:33) and "We Rock" (2:18). Likely to be more fun for kids are the menu-handy features of Sing Along with the Movie (with a "Play All Songs Only" option) and Camp Rock Karaoke (also with "Play All" option for all 13 songs). Not one but two ways to sing along with the movie over and over again: kids, get out your hairbrushes! Y'know, to sing into. Gosh, I'm old.
A Blu-Ray exclusive, "The Camp Rock Set Tour" (6:33) is hosted by actor Giovanni Spina, with frequent good-natured appearances by Joe Jonas. "How to Be a Rock Star" (27:56 with "Play All" option) is a seven-part tutorial, with comments by virtually all of the key cast and crew, including bona fide rock stars Joe, Nick, and Kevin Jonas. Some of the advice is level-headed and sound, but parents might want to add their own two cents when they hear some of the comments. Choreographer Kishaya Dudley says of shades, "Glasses just make you look like you're somebody. So if you wanna be known or be portrayed as somebody, please get yourself a pair." Um, okay. Or this chestnut from young singer-actress Jasmine Richards: "There are people that need help. A lot of them really need help. And what better person to do it than a rock star?" Errr...
Moving on, you'll find "Jonas Brothers: Real Life Rock Stars" (15:45), an interesting peek at what it's like to be a teenage performer who sells out arenas worldwide (read between the lines, folks). Amazingly, the three come off as level-headed, a bit exhausted by the whirlwind, but grateful and well-aware they'll never understand what it is to lead a normal life. "Introducing Demi Lovato" (5:40) is a profile of Camp Rock's chipper female lead, with some "candid" behind-the-scenes footage.
"Camp Memories" (5:49) compiles into a montage candid snapshots and a bit of video collected from the cast. "'Hasta La Vista': From Rehearsals to Final Jam" (4:54) swiftly depicts just what it says, the creation of a number with comments along the way from the performers. "'Too Cool': Setting the Scene" (3:37) shows the preparation and filming of another musical sequence.
Lastly, eagle-eyed kids will find an Easter Egg (4:19) showing the complete performance of a song Demi Lovato wrote and performed for the cast and crew at shoot's end. Disney also offers Sneak Peeks for Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds, Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, Tinker Bell, Wall-E, and Disney Parks.
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