Saturday, August 22, 2020

Musicals On TV - Camp Rock

Disney, 2008
Starring Devi Lovato, Joe Jonas, Meaghan Martin, and Alyson Stoner
Directed by Matthew Diamond
Music by various

High School Musical and its sequel were so huge, Disney immediately started looking for more musical talent. They hit on The Jonas Brothers, a trio of young gentlemen who were the Next Big Thing in 2007. The brothers would eventually appear on two Disney Channel series as well, making them a natural to headline their next big musical franchise. Lovato also had considerable experience in musical circles, having started as a young child Barney & Friends and appeared in the Disney short series As the Bell Rings. With all that talent, how rockin' is this particular camp? Let's head to the bedroom of teen Mitchie Torres (Lovato), and find out...

The Story: Mitchie begs her mother to let her attend Camp Rock, a summer camp for aspiring performers. Her mother Connie (Maria Canals-Barrera) arranges for her to go in exchange for becoming the camp's cook. Embarrassed about how she got in, she lies to popular girl Tess (Martin) and her friends that her mother is a rich producer. She ends up singing background to spoiled Tess, even though she's a fine singer in her own right. Mitchie gets involved in a fight between Tess and less-wealthy Catalyn (Stoner), but fears losing Tess' friendship and doesn't say what really happens.

Meanwhile, obnoxious pop singer Shane Gray (Jonas) has been shoved into teaching dance classes at Camp Rock by his brothers, the other members of hit group Connect 3 (Nick and Kevin Jonas). He befriends Mitchie after she overhears a song he wrote, but doesn't think is "commercial" enough. They fall for each other...until a jealous Tess lets the cat out of the bag about who Mitchie's mother really is. Now Mitchie and Catalyn have to band together to show the entire camp what they can really do. Tess, however, has one last trick up her sleeve...

The Song and Dance: I'll give the kids some credit. No wonder Lovato went on to become a genuine music star as an adult, and the Jonas Brothers were popular in their own right for a while. They really are fine singers and dancers. The numbers in the Final Jam in particular are a blast and show off what the kids can do. Those of you who have your own memories of rock in the early 90's will want to look for former MTV VJ "Downtown" Julie Brown in a small part as the camp's musical director.

Favorite Number: Lovato kicks things off trying to figure out what her real style is in "Who Will I Be?" Ella (Anna Maria Perez de Tagle), one of Tess' former background singers, joins rappers Barron (Jordan Francis) and Sander (Roshon Fegan) for the spirited rap chorus number "Hasta La Vista." Another former Tess background singer, Peggy (Jasmine Richards), wowed the crowd (and me) with her impassioned guitar playing to "Here I Am." Shane joins Mitchie for their duet on her big song "This Is Me."

What I Don't Like: Even more than High School Musical or the Descendants films, this is one big, huge cliche. Mitchie's perpetual lying makes her less a likable kid trying too hard to fit in than a bratty turncoat who is lucky anyone wants to talk to her by the end of the summer. She and Jonas have all the chemistry of two wet rags (despite the actors having dated in real-life for a while), and you really don't care if they get together in the end or not. I found Tess' background buddies growing spines and splitting off from her to be more interesting than Mitchie's (mostly self-created) problems.

Ironically, for all Shane's claims that his song isn't "commercial," it sounds just like every other pop song in the film. Despite some of the good performances, the music is pretty bland, and the kids can only do so much with it.

The Big Finale: It lacks the charm of High School Musical and the creative movie satire of Teen Beach Movie, and other than a few good numbers, it's kind of annoying. Only jam with this one if you're a huge fan of the film or its stars or have kids in the appropriate 8 to 14 age range.

Home Media: As one of the most popular Disney Channel Original Films (it remains the third most-watched in the channel's history), this is easy to find in all major formats, often for under 5 dollars.

Amazon Prime

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