This weekend marked the premiere of Camp Rock 2, a follow-up film to the 2008 Disney-produced Jonas Brothers / Demi Lovato vehicle of the same name (without the 2, of course). The made-for-TV movie received pretty stellar ratings for a film of its genre, earning 8 million viewers on opening night, as well as the designation of “2010’s Top Cable Movie.” Although the film lacked a bit of the heart, and felt somewhat less genuine, than the original movie, it still made for an enjoyable two hours. For me, a lot of that enjoyment could be attributed to two key performances in the film — both of which I will touch on in just a bit . . .
“Are they ACTUALLY doing the funky chicken? Is this supposed to be a musical number, or a scene from my 55-year old, Uncle Marvin’s 4th wedding?”
It’s a brand new summer. And our main character, Mitchie Torres (played by Demi Lovato) is gearing up for yet another “awesome” camp experience.
On the surface, things look pretty perfect for Mitchie. She has a great group of friends as bunkmates. No longer does she have to hide the fact that she (gasp!) is part of the cooking staff at the titular Camp Rock. And . . . she has a boyfriend. Well . . . at least in the Disney Channel’s “we hold hands, and make googly eyes at eachother, but that’s about it” highly neutered definition of the term.
Did I mention he’s a FAMOUS ROCKSTAR? That’s right boys and girls. Last summer, Mitchie won the heart of the floppy-haired, tight-pants wearing Adonis, Joe Jonas Shane Gray . . .
. . . of The Jonas Brothers Connect 3!
(Sidenote: Also featured in Camp Rock, is Jonas Brothers’ little brother, Frankie Jonas, who plays one of the younger campers. Poor Frankie has been designated by fans with the unfortunate nickname, “Bonus Jonas” — a moniker that will be sure to earn him YEARS of therapy, once he reaches adulthood.)
Frankie “when’s it going to be my turn” Jonas
Mitchie must be REALLY good at hand-holding and googly eyes, because Shane has convinced his band to take an ENTIRE SUMMER off from touring, just so he can “get to know her better.” (Really, Shane? That’s your idea of a fun summer? No bikini-clad groupies, or all-night keggars? Just summer camp, with your sort of / kind of girlfriend? I guess “Shane” wears a purity ring too.)
Aside from some “transportation problems,” on the part of Connect 3 . . .
You know, I really HATE IT when my tour bus falls off a cliff. Don’t you?
. . . Shane arrives at Camp Rock, with no trouble at all . . . Well, unless you count the massive chicken sitting on his head . . .
But trouble DOES arrive soon enough, in the form of an invitation sent to Camp Rock from the mysterious Camp Star, which was conveniently built right across the lake, seemingly overnight. It turns out that Camp Star is run by the EVIL music producer, Axel Turner . . .
Um, yeah . . . this guy NEVER has to worry about being typecast as a villain.
. . . who’s been holding some long-standing grudge against Camp Rocks’ owner and director, Brown Cesario . . .
. . . since Brown kicked Axel out of his band, back in the ’80s.
So, the EEEVVVILLL Axel Turner lures the entire staff and all of the campers from Camp Rock to Camp Star for a “bonfire.” There, the group is treated to a flashy music number, and offers of immediate enrollment. Axel even goes as far as to offer to double all Camp Rock counselors’ salaries, for “making the switch” to Camp Star. Most of the Camp Rock counselors jump ship, along with some of the campers. Most notable among the defectors is Tess (Meaghan Jett Martin), the resident mean girl and “villain, ultimately redeemed,” from the previous film.
Suddenly, without a staff to properly run it, and with the threat of massive future camper desertions looming large, Camp Rock faces possible bankruptcy. Fortunately, Mitchie has a plan.
Why can’t the older CAMPERS be COUNSELORS? (This actually makes a lot of sense, seeing as most of the film’s cast seem WAY TOO OLD to be campers, anyway.)
Camp Rock also decides to challenge Camp Star to a televised sing and dance off. Our protagonists believe that winning such a contest will help Camp Rock to establish itself as a worthy camp, and, therefore, maintain its enrollment.
The stress of preparing for this big event puts a major crinkle in the “quality time” (read: more hand holding and googly eyes) that Shane wants to spend with Mitchie. The fact that Mitchie has undergone a complete personality transplant since the first film — going from shy, sweet, unassuming, and slightly insecure — to raging Type A, diva taskmaster, certainly doesn’t help matters . . .
I won’t tell you how it all ends. (Though I’m sure if you think hard enough, you can figure it out.) Needless to say, a lot of singing and dancing is involved.
But what really made this film for me, was not its main plotline — which basically served as a mere framing device for the various musical numbers — but its clever subplots, and three-dimensional supporting cast. My two favorite moments of the film came from actors Matthew “Mdot” Finley, and Nick Jonas, respectively. Finley plays Luke Williams, the ambitious and arrogant (but with good reason) ingenue of Camp Star.
Those of you out there who are Glee fans can probably understand Luke’s character best, this way: If Camp Star is Vocal Adrenaline, with its’ “all work, no play” attitude, snooty performers, and over-produced, automaton-esque, musical numbers, then Luke is Jesse St. James.
And yet, while there are definitely things about the Luke character that seem borrowed and cliche . . . (He also dresses and dances a bit like Usher, circa 2001.)
. . . Finley manages to give the role a certain complexity and inherent likeability. Even when the character is being a total douche, he’s somehow extremely charismatic. Plus, Finley and Meaghan Martin (who plays Tess) exchange their fair share of witty and biting banter during the film. The pair have excellent chemistry, which crackles and pops, during the few scenes they share together — chemistry that could have downright sexy, if this wasn’t a Disney film. So much so, that I found myself wishing the pair had more screen time.
Finley’s solo rendition of the very danceable “Fire,” was impressive, and showed extreme talent and skill, on his part. For me, it was the second best performance of the entire film. (I’ll get to the first in a moment.) See for yourself:
As I mentioned earlier, my other favorite performance of the evening, belonged to Nick Jonas, and his character, Nate Ericcs. Nick actually had very little to do acting wise, in the first film. So, it was nice to see him really get a chance to perform here.
Throughout most of the film, the shy and intelligent Nate finds himself pining over fellow performer, Dana Turner (played by Chloe Bridges), who just so happens to be the daughter of Camp Star’s EEEEVIL director, Axel Turner. (Kudos to Disney for NOT going the way-too-obvious Romeo & Juliet route here.)
You see, Nate obviously likes Dana. And Dana obviously likes him. But the BIG FAMOUS ROCKSTAR is SHY! And he doesn’t know how to talk to girls. (Stop laughing! It could happen!) So, he sort of / kind of stalks her, through the first half of the movie, ogling her from behind bushes and peering at her from beneath overtuned canoes . . .
Finally, Dana confronts Nate, telling him to buck up and CONVERSE with her. “I don’t even know anything about you . . . aside from the fact that you like canoes,” she whines.
So, Nate, who has always been someone who can best express himself through song, serenades Dana with the quirkiest and sweetest little ditty ever, appropriately titled, “Introducing Me.”
(If you’re a fan of things like cute little puppies, teddy bears, and candy Conversation Hearts, click on the internal link, which will surely satisfy even the most stubborn of sweet tooths.)
If the rhythm of the above-referenced song sounds slightly familiar to you, you are not alone. Many have noted the similarity between Nick Jonas’ “Introducing Me” and Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours.” But I’m going to keep my opinions on this matter to myself, for now, and let you decide. You can listen to an acoustic version of “I’m Yours” by clicking here.
Both “Introducing Me” and “Fire” are available for download on ITunes, as is the rest of the Camp Rock 2 soundtrack. As for the film itself, your best bet is probably to Netflix it. 🙂