Directed by Matthew Diamond
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: August 19, 2008
Review Date: August 14, 2008
Come on, Disney! After huge successes with both High School Musical TV-movies and their clone Jump-In!, you could certainly have done better than this paint-by-numbers teen musical Camp Rock. With the tritest of stories, so-so songs, and truly uninspired choreography, Camp Rock survives on the flimsiest of premises: there are lots of squeaky clean, attractive young people giving their all to put on a show. Their enthusiasm is commendable especially in the face of such lackluster material.
Talented song writer and budding teen singer Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato) is ecstatic to learn that she will get to attend a rock music camp during the summer even though her family's finances make it necessary that her mother serve as camp cook and that Mitchie work part-time in the kitchen. Once at the camp, however, she finds herself surrounded by hyper-talented youngsters headed by the haughty diva of Camp Rock Tess Tyler (Meaghan Jette Martin). Ashamed of her humble origins when everyone else seemingly has parents who work in the music business (Tess’ mother is a multi-Grammy winning singing star), Mitchie concocts a fake biography for herself and spends the summer trying not to get caught in her lies. (You can see where this is heading, right?) Also present at Camp Rock is spoiled bad boy teen rock star Shane Gray (Joe Jonas), there to clean up his image by instructing the campers in rock moves and instruction in how to sell a song to an audience. He also hears a young girl singing quietly with a voice that fascinates him, and he spends all summer searching for her identity (You can see where this is heading, right?) It all leads to the big summer jam to end the camp season.
It took four writers to come up with the clichéd and oft-experienced travails in this story (Regina Hicks, Karin Gist, Julie Brown, Paul Brown), and there truly isn’t an original moment of plot to be seen. They even resort to a favorite Disney stand-by, the food fight. True, it’s only spaghetti that gets flung rather than something ickier and stickier, but it’s a food fight just the same. Director Diamond plops the thirteen song and dance numbers quickly throughout the scenario, mercifully offering something different from the tried-and-died dramatics on display. Unfortunately, the songs by a variety of hands don’t land with the impact of any of the music in either High School Musical film. Of the tunes, “Start the Party” works best as the show’s one genuine production number hampered a bit by Kishaya Dudley’s uninvolving dance moves, and the finale “We Rock” is also fairly catchy. But much of the music is bubblegum pop instantly forgettable: Tess’ anthem to herself “Too Cool” and the Jonas Brothers’ “I Just Want to Play My Music.” One song during the final show “Here I Am” by background singer Peggy (Jasmine Richards) who finally decides to try the spotlight begins with overly synthesized vocals that mask any real vocal gift, but surprisingly the tinkering with the vocals is dialed down halfway through, and it becomes the film’s best ballad. “This Is Me” finds the two chaste lovers finally discovering each other’s identity to share a duet which leads to the movie’s two finales (the second one being completely unnecessary except for the purposes of setting up a sequel).
The Jonas Brothers are the obvious lures here, though truth to tell only Joe gets major screen time or shows much promise as an actor. He’s paired with an up-and-comer on the Disney Channel Demi Lovato, and their singing styles (strained, clipped, breathy phrasing) match perfectly making them as obvious a team as Annette and Frankie were a few generations ago. Meaghan Jette Martin gets to be this movie’s Ashley Tisdale-clone of snobbishness and selfishness personified, though the authority is just a bit lacking in her performance. Alyson Stoner plays Mitchie’s spunky musician true friend well while Maria Canals Barrera is Mitchie’s understanding mother.
For tweens, the familiarity and simplicity of the story won’t be obstacles at all to Camp Rock’s popularity, but I think even they would have to admit that the story, the songs, and the acting don’t come anywhere near the accomplishments of the High School Musical productions.
Though broadcast on the Disney Channel in 1.33:1, the Blu-ray presentation (as was the Blu-ray of High School Musical 2) of the film is presented in a 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Colors are bright, and flesh tones are true, but sharpness is erratic in this production with some scenes strangely soft and undefined. I noticed no edge halos or other artifacts, but this is not among the most exceptional of Blu-ray presentations. The film has been divided into 13 chapters.
The PCM 5.1 audio track (6.9 Mbps) is also something of a letdown with almost no use of the rear surrounds at all save a few instances of audience applause. For the most part, the mix relies on the front three channels almost exclusively betraying its made-for-TV origins. Everything is well recorded; dialog is always clear and correctly placed in the center channel, but for a musical, this is one underwhelming audio mix.
2 music videos are offered on the disc in 480p: "Start the Party" (1 ½ minutes) and “We Rock” (2 ¼ minutes).
The movie can be played in Sing Along Mode where the song lyrics will pop up as subtitles on the screen with colored lettering to assist in singing.
Karaoke Mode takes out the lead singer’s vocals so the viewer can sing the lead himself. All thirteen songs offer this option.
Exclusive to Blu-ray is the Camp Rock Set Tour, 6 ½ minutes of touring the studio and location sets for the movie. Joe Jonas pops up ten times during the tour in every spot the viewer is taken. It’s presented in 1080i.
The remainder of the bonus features (apart from the trailers) are all in 480p and are also on the standard DVD release of Camp Rock.
“How to Be a Rock Star” features the stars of the movie and other key production personnel giving some common sense life lessons to younger viewers about achieving their goals. They discuss talent, practice, style, moves, behavior, and having a network of friends in this 27 ¾-minute featurette.
“Jonas Brothers: Real Life Rock Stars” gives the group’s huge fan base 15 ¾ minutes in which each of the boys talks about his life, his work, and his goals.
“Introducing Dami Lovato” is a 5 ½-minute introduction to the female star of the film basically told in her own words.
“Camp Rock Memory Book” is a 5 ¾ minute montage of still photos and video taken around the set as various production personnel pose for the camera. Some of the participants are identified and others are just assumed to be known by the viewer.
“From Rehearsal to Final Jam: ‘Hasta La Vista’” shows in a 5-minute featurette the six weeks of rehearsal and filming that took place on the first number in the movie’s final jam sequence. It’s hosted by Jordan Francis and Roshon Fegan, two of the supporting actors playing campers and dancing the lead in the number.
“Setting the Stage for ‘Too Cool’” gives the girls a turn in the spotlight as Anna Maria Perez de Tagle narrates the number “Too Cool” and its production history. This lasts 3 ½ minutes.
1080p previews on the disc include Sleeping Beauty, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Tinker Bell, Wall-E, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Camp Rock will undoubtedly be a tween favorite (the original broadcast broke the Disney Channel’s ratings record for the biggest audience for an original non-sequel movie), but that doesn’t alter the fact that the material here is truly substandard. Credit goes to the ebullient cast for giving even these warmed over delicacies some much needed flavor.