Camp Rock (2008)

I believe full disclosure needs to happen before you can listen to what I have to say about this film. Essentially, it’s a film that is meant to showcase two talents. The first is Demi Lovato, while the second is The Jonas Brothers. I’ll tell you know that I’m a fan of the former, and am indifferent towards the latter. I think that announcing those biases before the real review begins will better help you understand where I am coming from, especially considering this is a musical.

Camp Rock takes place primarily in the titular camp (although it’s more like “Camp Pop”). Our lead is Mitchie (Lovato), who is so desperate to go to this camp that she puts brochures all throughout her house. After coming home from school one day, her mother and father tell her that she’ll be able to go because her mother’s catering business is going to cook the food for the camp. This is the only way, we’re told, because their family is not all that wealthy, and this is a camp for rich families who typically have one or more famous parents.

Our secondary character is the rock star Shane Gray (Joe Jonas), who is the lead singer of the band “Connect 3″. They’re like the real life Jonas Brothers, except that Shane has an anger problem. He walks off-set during one of their performances, and is sentenced to teach dance classes at this camp as punishment. No, that doesn’t make much sense to me either, but let’s roll with it. on the first day of camp, he hears Mitchie singing, but she leaves before he can find out who it is. He spends most of the film trying to find out who the mystery voice from earlier was.

Mitchie, on the other hand, is dealing with social issues at the camp. She doesn’t fit in, so she lies about who her parents are. She eventually gets in with the popular kids, led by camp diva Tess (Meaghan Jette Martin). The rest of the film consists of the characters dancing, singing and preparing for the Final Jam — a singing contest where the prize is getting to record a duet with Shane Gray.

Along the way, characters need to do a lot of growing, although since this is a Disney Channel Original Movie, there isn’t going to be a lot of depth to this growth. Characters start one way, and often do a complete 180 by the time the film concludes. They’re not complex or deep, and serve more to teach lessons to the young audience that the film is targeted towards.

For a film that is targeted towards the under-15 crowd, you have to give it credit for giving them relatable characters and good messages to take from it. The lead, Mitchie, is an insecure girl just trying to fit in, claiming to only have one friend back home, and neither of them is popular. It’s a feeling that a lot of people have felt, and giving the film an empowerment message can give some people a great feeling.

The songs involved are hit and miss, with some of them being enjoyable to listen to, but others feeling both unnecessary, (even for a musical), and kind of dull. The first full-length song of the film is meant to introduce a character who maybe gets five more lines of dialogue for the rest of the film, and also serves as the film’s lowest point. It’s simply annoying, with a chorus that almost made me want to turn the film off. Luckily, it got better after this point, with some songs actually being fairly catchy, or helping hammer home the empowerment message that the film likes so much.

I wonder if Disney movies like this even care if their actors are good or if the film was actually well-made. In terms of acting, the young stars are, well — at least they’re enthusiastic. Maybe a little bit too enthusiastic at times, as it seemed like they couldn’t be real people with how much energy they always seemed to have. It’s overacting thanks to over ambition, which I’ll take in this type of film over being dull. The one good actor in the film was the one who runs the camp, Shane’s uncle (Daniel Fathers).

The film is clearly not well-made though. There are editing errors all over the place, some of the actions of the characters don’t make the slightest bit of sense, and the dance choreography is, at times, not the greatest. Again, I wonder if this matters. Does anyone actually care, and will the target audience notice these things? Will it detract from their enjoyment of Camp Rock? I’m going with a “no” in this case. That doesn’t excuse the problems, but it makes them inconsequential.

At this point, knowing as much as I do about the stars, I question how different these characters are from their actors. The Jonas brothers are rock stars in real life, and while I haven’t heard anything about Joe Jonas blowing up on-set, he may be the most animated of the group. Demi Lovato has said before that she wasn’t the most popular girl growing up, and it seemed like she was playing herself, just a slightly more cheerful and energetic version. It’s like all of the lead actors were playing caricatures — over-the-top versions — of themselves. Or at least, that’s my guess.

I know a lot of people not in the target demographic aren’t going to even give this film a second thought, but for what it’s worth, I didn’t think it was bad. Poorly made, yes, but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable, because the songs and message it was trying to give were (mostly) well-delivered. If you are on the fence about seeing this, then I say give it a look.

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