Extended Rock Star Edition
Studio: Walt Disney
US Rating: Rated G for General Audiences
Film Length: 98 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: Optional Spanish
The Film - out of
By the time your body says goodnight to life and you pass into the ether of your afterlife, you will have ingrained in your mind the broadly drawn characters that make up Disney’s version of the world. You will be able to recognize in an instant the rich snob, the shy outcast, the handsome loner, the secretly beautiful nerd, the wise old person; the…well, you get the point. All these stock characters that giddily and gainfully adorn well worn plots in family approved stories exist today for the tweens just as they did for us, albeit with less clothes and more sass now. So when a TV movie like Camp Rock comes along, it is easy to forget that the target audience is an audience not already soaked since birth for decades in countless rich kids with rude tongues and likeable, picked on kids who triumph over the paint-by-numbers odds stacked against them. These characters are the base; the foundation upon which a lifetime spent seeking out more nuanced, counter-intuitive and alternative versions of the same thing is based. It is the prologue to the discerning viewer’s quest for literate and fulfilling entertainment.
Camp Rock, originally filmed for and broadcast on the Disney Channel, has Mitchie, a music loving lass heading to camp for the summer to enjoy the many creative and song-filled activities ‘Camp Rock’ is famous for. She is able to attend only because her parents will be there working (her Mom is the talented cook). Once there, she meets up with an assortment of kids, each with great musical talent and a knack for coming from rich and well connected parents somewhere in ‘the business’. To fit in, Mitchie lies about her background and what her Mom really does for a living. Her lie impressed the camp’s returning prima donna, Tess Tyler – a rich diva with a serpent tongue and a willful disregard for the feelings of others. Tess drags around two underlings who seem happy to be mistreated so long as they get to hang around the queen bee. Mitchie, despite being warned by the friendly and nerdy Caitlyn, welcomes the feeling of being on the camps A-list. Tess does become suspicious of Mitchie’s tergiversation, as Mitchie disappears frequently, juggling her duties along with her fake persona. She is seemingly improvident to the inevitable consequences of her mendacity. But that is all set up for the inevitable revelation, devastation, re-evaluation, celebration and approbation that tent-pole the all important finale.
The special twist for the camp attendees this year is the presence of young phenomenon rock-star Shane Gray, lead singer of ‘Connect 3’ (the Jonas Brothers), who, after misbehaving on tour, has been relegated to teaching class at the camp while his uncle, a Brit ex-rocker and Camp Leader, tries to help him get his act together. His presence sends the girls in a tizzy and adds another layer of pressure for the competing young Tess and the ‘normal-but-faking-it’ Mitchie.
The film stars Jonas Brothers lead singer Joe Jonas and introduces Demi Lovato as Mitchie. The rest of the Jonas Brothers trio have supporting roles, mostly to play guitar on the few songs they perform and to provide a few laughs that are carefully lined up and easily putted in one liners. Alyson Stoner stars as Mitchie’s conscience and friend Caitlyn while Meaghan Jette Martinstars as the mean Tess Tyler with Jasmine Richards (Peggy) and Anna Maria Perez De Tagle (Ella) as the two girls tethered to Tess - rounding out the teasing and terse trio. Performances are all pretty solid for the material, with Demi Lovato, reminding me of a young Tiffany (you know, “I think we’re along now” babe from the 80’s?), grinning broadly and way too much through the film but doing it well. Joe Jonas seems a tad awkward dancing, but delivers a musical performance that, while lacking range, has what it takes to sell the part.
The musical numbers are plentiful, ranging from ballad to rock to pop and a little hip-hop. Choreography is stilted and mostly uneventful – surely a disappointment to the young ones exposed to movies like Step Up and the much better Stomp the Yard, but passable in context. The film exists as an excuse to cram as many songs into the running time as possible, strung together with the catalogue of familiar characters, but that doesn’t really matter. The likeable kids are likeable; the mean ones are mean and the meaner they get, the more you’ll want to stick around for their assured comeuppance. And that’s exactly what this film was designed for and does. And the teen angst explored in guitar strumming songs sold with unsubtle lyrics about self esteem and the appalling but timeless fortress of ‘status’ among the school age wash upon the screen in all the right places and at all the right times, hooking the young and younger easily. There is even a moment or two of self-reference, like when Shane Grey ponders getting back to his love of the music and his chagrin at having to pump out, and I paraphrase here, “cookie cutter, label-pushed pop-songs”. While I can’t tell if that is insight or irony, it certainly helps the story.
Walt Disney studio launches what is sure to be another successful franchise on DVD with a disappointing full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio. Originally broadcast in 1.33:1, it was actually filmed with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (and released on Blu-Ray that way). The image is unremarkable and looks exactly like the non-HD version of the Disney Channel. Mostly bland, the colors don’t pop, shine or zing in the slightest. Edge Enhancement is noticeable and a level of grain beyond normal is present here. When the image quality isn’t below-par, it merely holds on to average.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has been included, although from listening to it, you might wonder if that is correct. The action takes place overwhelmingly in the center and front channels, only crossing into the surrounds on the barest of occasions. One or two songs have a decent thump, but for the most part you will find this audio lacking oomph and power. Not immersive at all, but rather tepid and, like the video quality, disappointing.
How To Be A Rock Star! - (27:54) - Broken into seven segments (Sing, Dress, Dance, Behave, Practice, Network and Everyone’s a Rock Star), actors, director and others talk about the definition of a rock star and all the elements that make up what they believe one to be. This is an encouragement piece to feel good about trying.
Jonas Brothers: Real Life Rock Stars - (15:45) – A look at the Jonas Brothers and their skills. Talented kids for sure and great that they play and write their music and seem to have a good handle on their success.
Introducing Demi Lovato - (5:40) – Spotlight on the new starlet that I am sure we will be seeing quite a bit more of from the world of Disney, an accomplished pianist and songwriter herself.
Camp Memories - (5:49) – A series of photos taken by the cast and crew.
”Hasta La Vista” – From Rehearsals to Final Jam - (4:54) – A behind the scenes breakdown of the rehearsals for one of the film’s key songs in the finale. Jordan Francisand and Roshon Fegan, ( Barron and Sander in the film), talk about getting the moves right, the energy and show love for the choreographer.
”Too Cool”: Setting the Scene - (15:45) – A look at a signature song for Mitchie’s foil, mean Tess.
Music & More
Music Videos for
‘Start the Party’(1:33) and
‘We Rock’ (2:18).
Sing Along With The Movie - Sing along to songs from the film, with or without lyrics on screen. Songs include “Who Will I Be”, “This Is Me”, What It Takes”, Start The Party”, “Too Cool”, “Gotta Find You”, “Play My Music”, “Hasta La Vista”, “2 Stars”, “Here I Am”, “This Is Me” Reprise, “We Rock” and “Our Time Is Here”.
Camp Rock - True karaoke – this is just like the ‘sing along’ feature with the lyrics option turned on.
As a man for whom this movie was certainly not targeted, it would have been easy to be distracted by the production flaws, continuity errors and Joe Jonas’ significant eyebrows – but truly by the time the credits rolled (right after one last completely superfluous song), I found I had been satisfied by several genuinely toe-tapping songs, the welcome turn-about for the character of Mitchie and the knowledge that kids everywhere were being exposed to the same stock good-guys and bad-guys that we all in one way or another grew up seeing. However, here we get a richer sense (though far from perfect) of the multi-cultural landscape that is the USA. A no-brainer for Jonas Brothers fans, Disney Channel adorers and parents looking to give their kids something positive to watch.