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Monday, July 21, 2008

"Camp Rock": Whatever...

So I finally watched Disney’s “Camp Rock” last week.

I had stayed away because I’m totally over the Jonas Brothers. But since there was nothing else on (and their new single is growing on me), I thought I’d give it a shot.

Honestly, there had to be something more useful I could have done with my time…

[Actually, I discovered later that there was. Ashley Tisdale’s new movie, “Picture This!” was on ABC Family. Fortunately, it’s out on DVD this week.]

If you haven’t seen it, “Camp Rock” is the story of Mitchie (Demi Lovato). She’s a shy girl with secret musical dreams that she gets to try and live out at the prestigious “Camp Rock” when her mother is hired as the camp cook. To impress all the rich kids, she lies about what her mother does for a living and doesn’t tell anyone she has to work in the kitchen.

Mitchie’s lies get her into the popular group led by mean girl Tess (Meaghan Jette Martin). But she soon starts to realize popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

That’s a lesson that’s also learned by pop star Shane Grey (Joe Jonas). He’s forced by his record label to become a camp counselor to improve his image. And after some initial hesitation, he starts to appreciate the camp when he hears a mystery girl singing a song that inspires him to reacquire his love for music.

Of course, we know that mystery girl is Mitchie, but it takes Shane the rest of the movie to figure it out. In the meantime, though, he ends up falling for Mitchie when they end up spending time together.

Even without seeing the movie, you can figure out where it goes from here. It’s that predictable.

I’m not going to call it a “High School Musical” clone because that would be too much of an insult to “HSM.” Where “HSM” was at least rooted in some reality, “Camp Rock” is completely unrealistic.

These kids come to camp to work on their musical skills, but they come with well-produced background tracks and backup dancers? And when did these campers go to their classes? We never saw any of that.

Plus, you have a camp of hundreds of kids and only four acts perform at the final jam contest for a chance to record with a pop star?

However, I will give the movie credit for one thing. The most talented performer really does win the final jam contest. And it’s not who you would think.

But even that winning performance is so forced and out of place that it doesn’t work as well as it should.

The biggest problem, however, is that the mean girl act—which carries most of the movie—grows old very quickly. And Martin is no Ashley Tisdale. We get small glimpses of the story behind the meanness when we discover that Tess has a strained relationship with her pop star mom. But the movie never fully pursues that story and so the inevitable redemption of Tess falls completely flat.

Lovato, Disney’s next big thing (or at least they hope), is appealing enough, but she just doesn’t have the vocal chops to pull off the movie’s big number, “This Is Me.” Joe Jonas’ cameo in the song is its best part.

And speaking of Jonas Brothers cameos, Nick and Kevin are actually the best part of the movie playing Shane’s bandmates. Nick plays the straight man to Kevin’s airhead and it’s actually quite funny. I would’ve liked to have seen more of them and less mean girl clichés.

“Camp Rock” is harmless and Jonas Brothers fans will be entertained, but if you’re looking for the next “High School Musical,” this isn’t it…

“Camp Rock” airs Thursday, July 24th at 7 p.m. on Disney Channel. It hits DVD August 19th…
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