So, it’s time for a confession today. I’ll go first. …
I confess: I watched The Disney Channel’s new original movie, Camp Rock. In its entirety.
How about you? If you’re a parent of tweens and you’re reading this, then chances are you’ve already watched it, too, this weekend. And if this movie is as successful as other Disney Channel fare—think High School Musical 1 and 2—then you’ll probably be watching it again. And again. And then buying the soundtrack. And then the DVD. And then the T-shirt! Good times.
Now, I really can’t explain why I did watch Camp Rock. And all I know is this: once I landed on The Disney Channel and started watching … well, I just couldn’t switch away. I tried. Really, I did.
First of all, the biggest draw can be summed up in two words: Jonas Brothers. [And pause for fans' screaming ...] They’re a teeny-bopper band of three brothers who are probably just as popular (if not even more) as Hannah Montana at this point, and whose poster is probably hanging on many a young girl’s bedroom wall. Innocent power pop is their thing. And I have to admit, they do have pretty good voices. A bit nasal, but the harmonies are decent nonetheless.
And as actors in Camp Rock? Well, they actually do a fair job. The story takes place at a prestigious summer music camp for aspiring singers, songwriters and musicians set in a mountainous, lakeside region somewhere in the U.S. But the exact geography isn’t as important as the music, the interpersonal drama and the intricately choreographed, group dance sequences. Oh, and all the costume changes, too (you’ll have to suspend your disbelief a little, ‘cause who wears clothes like that to summer camp??).
The first of the key players is Shane Gray (Joe Jonas), a celebrity band member of Connect Three, a popular band of three brothers (genius!). Naturally, the other Jonas brothers (Kevin and Nick Jonas) play the two other members of the band, but they aren’t seen on-screen as much as they have lesser roles and aren't actually campers.
So, what’s a pop star like Shane doing at Camp Rock? From what I could piece together in between snack runs to the fridge, he attended the camp in his younger years and now he’s back as an instructor and to “find himself.” He’s a little grumpy about being there and having to live in the rustic camp conditions. But he soon adjusts, starts playing his guitar in the wilderness and fixes his sights on a cutie named …
Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato), who arrives at Camp Rock with her mom, a caterer who is the camp’s cook for the summer. Mitchie will work in the kitchen part-time in trade for being able to attend the classes and be a camper (she’s an aspiring songwriter, plays piano and has a good voice to boot). But it’s not smooth sailing for this girl-next-door kind of camper. She’s soon got trouble in the form of …
Tess (Meaghan Jette Martin), a wealthy, leggy and blonde singer-dancer who is seemingly … perfect. Until she opens her mouth, at least. Tess’s mom was some major music star who won a bunch of awards back in the day, and so Tess is trying to live up to that kind of success. But she’s a mean girl, for sure. And she has her requisite posse of gal friends who are at her beck and call as they do, sing or say whatever she wants them to. Tess is apparently the queen bee of Camp Rock and anyone who dares take her spotlight away might herself in a canoe without a paddle. Up the river. Or rather, the lake in this case. …
So, at this point and with only these bits of information, I’m sure you can tell what will happen. Tess gets jealous of Mitchie (her natural talent and effortless ability to attract Shane) and wants Shane for herself. So she does what she can to make Mitchie’s life—and Mitchie’s chances of winning the important “Final Jam” competition at summer’s end—quite dismal indeed.
But during this time, good-girl Mitchie has lied about her background so that the other kids will accept her. Instead of telling them that her mom is the cook, she concocts a story about her being the president of some major music company. She says she’s lived in China, buys her clothes overseas, has appeared in music videos and on and on and on.
The lying pays off for a while. Other campers think she’s someone extra special, and Tess warmly welcomes Mitchie into her gal pack. But then when the whole battle-for-the-boy/battle-of-the-musical-talents begins, it’s all bets off. Mitchie is out, and Tess is on the warpath.
There’s a strong message about being real and true to yourself throughout Camp Rock. Mitchie’s lying is also exposed, and she faces the consequences and becomes the camp outcast. Also, thanks to the plotting-planning-scheming ways of Tess, Mitchie is wrongly accused of a theft and is suspended from all activities during the last week of camp—including the “Final Jam” competition. Gasp! Will Mitchie really not get the chance to sing and show who she really is to the rest of the campers and to the world?
Well, since Camp Rock IS a Disney Channel movie, I’m sure you can figure out how it will end. But I won’t spell it out here. You’ll have to watch, just like I did.
Bottom line, it’s a fairly wholesome film and actually one that encourages discussion with tweens about lying and its consequences, choosing friends wisely, showing kindness to everyone (even your enemies!), loyalty to your friends, gossip and its effects, how to approach competition, friendships with members of the opposite sex and more.
I can see how tweens will love the experience of Camp Rock. And even though I’m not exactly in the target audience, I think even big kids like me can enjoy revisiting summer camp, too. Guilty consciences and all.
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