The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy refers to the Earth as "Mostly harmless." That's pretty much the way I feel about Disney's hit Camp Rock TV movies. They're wholesome and optimistic, with lots of singing and dancing and puppy loving, the latter providing vicarious training wheels for kids who will themselves be dating in a few years. And for an era in which public school arts education is endangered by deep budget cuts, movies that are all about the joy of individual and communal performing arts (songcraft, choreography, musicianship,and such) can't be all bad. Of course Camp Rock is also, in part, about rock stardom as embodied by the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato, but you can't have everything.
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam resumes the franchise's epic narrative one year later, as the original movie's cast of characters excitedly make their way back to their favorite "learn to rock" summer camp. Shane (Joe Jonas), Nate (Nick Jonas) and Jason (Kevin Jonas)—known collectively as popular boy band "Connect 3"—are happy to break from touring and return to Camp Rock because it's run by their uncle Brown Cesario (Daniel Fathers), but Shane is particularly excited, as he'll be able to spend more time with the girl who won his heart last summer: Mitchie (Demi Lovato). Unfortunately, Brown's former bandmate Axel Turner (Daniel Kash) has opened a rival camp across the lake: Camp Star. Embodied by slickster star-in-the-making Luke (Matthew "Mdot" Finley), the flashy Camp Star has begun to siphon business from Camp Rock. Tthe issue comes to a head when Axel proposes a battle-of-the-camps show that comes to be called "Camp Wars, the ultimate summer showdown." That's the final jam of the title, which coyly and no doubt incorrectly suggests you'd better tune in to Camp Rock 2 because it could be the last Camp Rock movie (given the boffo ratings, a third movie is no doubt in the planning stages, perhaps even—a la High School Musical—for the big screen).
The core of Camp Rock is the relationship of Shane and Mitchie, who threatens budding love (and her BFF-ships) by turning into something of a monster as she plans the final jam. The duo's acting and singing are blandly functional (is there Auto-Tune for acting?), but the Jonas scenes do benefit from amusing brotherly banter, a style presumably honed since Camp Rock on their eponymous Disney Channel sitcom Jonas. Joe alternately bumbles, romances, and rocks out, while Kevin shows some comedic skill in playing a bit of a dimwit (as counselor to the camp's youngest boys, he also gets to act with the "bonus Jonas," little bro Frankie). But it's sleepy-eyed Nick gets the movie's best number, a declaration of love to his inconvenient new object of affection, Axel's daughter Dana (Chloe Bridges). The song, Jamie Houston's "Introducing Me," is so cheesy that it includes a whole verse about cheese. But the movie efficiently lays the groundwork to the scene by having Nate's awkward inexpresiveness nearly ruin his chances with Dana. So he writes a song to tell her, rather sweetly, everything she wanted to know and wasn't afraid to ask: "If you wanna know, here it goes, gonna tell you this./A part of me that shows,/If we're close, gonna let you see,/Everything/But remember that you asked for it.../For your perusing,/At times confusing,/Possibly amusing,/Introducing me."
Before I give Houston too much credit, she also wrote the song "Different Summers," which includes the highly dubious metaphor "When we remember different summers/It's like tossing your heart to see where it lands/Heads is easy/Tails is harder to plan." First of all, eww. Secondly, what? Maybe that's why "Different Summers" (along with "Walking In My Shoes") debuts as home-video bonus footage not included in the original broadcast. The movie includes ten more songs: "Brand New Day," "Fire," "Can't Back Down," "It's On," "Wouldn't Change a Thing," "Heart & Soul," "You're My Favorite Song," "Tear It Down," "What We Came Here For," and "This Is Our Song." Of those, only "Heart & Soul" is mildly memorable in a way that isn't embarrassing (then again, the Jonas Brothers rocker makes reference to David Lee Roth, Bruce Springstreen, Elvis, Mick Jagger, and Axl Rose, artists who might not compare so favorably to the boy band). For true lyrical egregiousness, look no further than "It's On" ("Show me, show me, show me, show me, show what you got/Come on, come on, come on, come on, ready or not/La-la-la-la-la, let me see how you rock/It's on, it's on, it's on"). Kids won't mind the corniness of the squeaky-clean songs, complete with easy-to-learn choreography by Rosero McCoy; it's parents that will recognize the numbers as ready-made self-parodies, many incorporating uncool faux hip-hop.
Disney gives Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam its home-video debut in a three-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack. I think it's safe to say this movie will never look better than it does here, in a hi-def transfer that maximizes the sunny source material. Lower-light scenes are a tad fuzzier, but this mostly a bright and colorful movie that looks attractive in hi-def. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack effectively presents the high-gloss music, and dialogue and effects are also well mixed for clarity and surround immersion.
Like all Disney musicals, this one comes promoted with a singalong track (a.k.a. subtitles): this one's dubbed Rock-Along. There's a suite of Music Videos from Camp Rockers Around the World: "France" (3:03, SD), "Spain" (2:47, SD), "Benelux" (3:25, SD), "Germany" (3:31, HD) and "Italy" (3:39, HD). lastly, "Getting to Know Camp Star's Newest Stars" (5:44, HD) finds Chloe Bridges and Matthew "Mdot" Finley interviewed by Alyson Stoner.
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