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Camp Rock: Extended Rock Star Edition DVD Review
Movie & DVD Details
Director: Matthew Diamond / Writers: Karin Gist, Regina Hicks, Julie Brown, Paul Brown
Cast: Demi Lovato (Mitchie Torres), Joe Jonas (Shane Gray), Meaghan Jette Martin (Tess Tyler), Maria Canals Barrera (Connie Torres), Alyson Stoner (Caitlyn Geller), Julie Brown (Dee La Duke), Daniel Fathers (Brown Cesario), Ana Maria Perez De Taglι (Ella), Jasmine Richards (Margaret "Peggy Warburton" Dupree), Jordan "J-Man" Francis (Barron James), Roshon Fegan (Sander Loya), Kevin Jonas (Jason), Nick Jonas (Nate)
Songs: "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", "Our Time is Here"
Original Air Date: June 20, 2008 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
DVD Release Date: August 19, 2008 / Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Also available on Blu-ray Disc
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
By Aaron Wallace
Disney's New Year resolution was threefold: (1) follow up High School Musical with another tween musical, (2) create a star vehicle for the Jonas Brothers, (3) launch a new pop star before Miley Cyrus pulls one MySpace stunt too many.
The movie opens with Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato) hoping to attend Camp Rock, a summer program where aspiring young musicians collaborate to hone their skills. The only way that can happen is for her mother (Maria Canals Barrera) to work as camp caterer, a position she takes on the condition that Mitchie will put in kitchen hours. She isn't the only camp attendee who winds up at Camp Rock on a compromise. World famous rock star Shane Gray (Joe Jonas) is there too, hoping to bolster some good PR as an instructor after a few media faux pas.
Trying to make a good name for herself and impress the cool kids, Mitchie pretends to be the daughter of a hotshot record exec. With the other kids' acceptance, she feels more comfortable in her musical skin. When Shane hears Mitchie singing in the distance, he makes it his mission to discover the girl responsible for that voice, his ego gradually deflating along the journey.
You'll notice I've only talked about Joe Jonas' character, Shane. That's because the Jonas Brothers are quickly becoming the Joe Jonas Band and Disney is all too happy to cast him in the lead role and push the others off to the sidelines. That's exactly where Nick and Kevin Jonas spend their time in this movie; only a few lines are delegated to each and sprinkled throughout the script. But to their credit, all three of the young rockers do a pretty good job acting and while the roles are anything but demanding, they manage to outshine their costars.
Speaking of costars, Demi Lovato sells her role as an unassuming hopeful and holds her own in the lead role despite it being her movie debut. She does not, however, sell her role as a singer. That's unfortunate, as she's one in real life, not to mention Disney's emerging cash cow. It's also unfortunate because she sings most of Camp Rock's music. Of course, her bland, nasal vocals fit right in with this tour de force of Kidzbop B-sides. The movie's soundtrack is compiled from the most forgettable music litter to ever make a studio release. Only two songs stand out: "Play My Music" and the ultra-catchy "We Rock". Both feature the Brothers Jonas and are the only scenes safe enough for you to remove the earplugs.
The least the director and editor could have done is ensure that when that insufferable racquet is blaring, the actors' mouths line up with the lyrics.
The cookie-cutter story is as conventional as they come but to its credit, it is sufficiently diverting. Not riveting, not even necessarily entertaining, but certainly diverting. I can't imagine ever wanting a second viewing but in spite of the poor music and missteps in the production, I wasn't bored. I imagine that younger viewers will even get a kick out of it because after all, it's every twelve year old girl's dream to rock out with Joe Jonas at camp. If that's your dream too, then you'll like this more than I did.
Camp Rock came to DVD last month in an Extended Rock Star Edition, so called because the original ending is replaced with an "exclusive extended edition". Not having caught it on TV, I can't compare the differences, but I'm guessing they aren't grand in scale. The movie is also available on Blu-ray Disc. I explore the contents of the DVD in the remainder of this review.
VIDEO and AUDIO
The movie is presented in 1.33:1 "fullscreen", the aspect ratio it was originally televised in. It's been apparent for some time now that the Disney Channel frames its original movies for both fullscreen and widescreen. That is immediately apparent with Camp Rock, which Disney has released in widescreen on Blu-ray disc but only in fullscreen on DVD. Now, there's a very strong argument to be made that the original broadcast presentation is the "truest" one, but there's no reason that both versions shouldn't be made available. As for picture quality on the DVD, it's as good as a Disney Channel Original Movie will ever look. The appearance lacks the polish or depth of a theatrical film but the disc itself doesn't introduce any unwelcome issues.
The audio is presented exclusively in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, a supposed step up from the original stereo presentation on television. In reality, there's very little difference in this new 5.1 track, at least as far as the rear channels are concerned. Save occasional cheering and light instrumentation, there's nary a sound to be heard from them. Bass is a different story, however. The excessive bass levels on this audio track unfortunately mean you'll need to keep the remote control at your side for those beat-heavy songs.
BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING
The Camp Rock DVD offers perhaps the fullest slate of bonus features given to a Disney Channel Original Movie home video release. The supplements are divided into two sections.
Under Music & More, there are music videos for "Start the Party" (1:33) and "We Rock" (2:18).
The next two bonus features are, as far as I can tell, exactly the same thing. The first is called "Sing Along with the Movie". The second is called "Camp Rock Karaoke". In both, you can select each song from the movie and watch on-screen lyrics as the corresponding scene plays. The only discernible difference is that "Sing Along with the Movie" has a "Play All" option and also includes an option to turn off the on-screen lyrics. The "Songs Only" option will trigger an alternative 5.1 soundtrack that plays the movie without any spoken dialogue, allowing a score, songs, and effects-only presentation. Why anyone would want that from Camp Rock is beyond me, but there it is.
Under Backstage Disney, the bonus features continue with "How to Be a Rock Star" (27:54), a surprisingly intellectual look at what it means to be famous. Mind you, it's not quite academic and it's filled with plenty of "don't do drugs!" spiels but seeing actual stars (and I think Joe Jonas applies even if no one else here does) reflecting on stardom and why it appeals to the public is about the last thing I expected from this DVD. The featurette is divided into topical chapters or can be played as a cohesive unit (the latter is recommended).
That vibe continues with "Jonas Brothers: Real Life Rock Stars" (15:45), in which all three of the Jonas Brothers discuss their careers, their daily routines, and their philosophy as fast-rising celebrities. It's a pretty candid look at young stardom in just fifteen minutes.
"Introducing Demi Lovato" (5:40) puts a brief spotlight on Camp Rock's other headlining star. Mostly, it's Lovato talking about the exciting but overwhelming experience of making a movie, recording her music, and working with big names.
"Camp Memories" (5:49) is a reel of photos taken by the cast and crew of Camp Rock, set to music. I'm not sure how appealing this is to those who aren't in a Jonas Bros. fan club, but this format is at least a lot better than a standard image gallery.
"'Hasta La Vista': From Rehearsal to Final Jam" (4:55) is exactly what it sounds like -- a look at the production of the "Hasta La Vista" number, though there's much more focus on the rehearsal than on the final jam. Cast members Jordan Francis and Roshon Fegan give a joint interview and sing a bit as well.
"Too Cool": Setting the Scene (3:37) is along the same lines,
There's an Easter Egg as well. If you'd rather find it on your own, skip to the next paragraph. Otherwise highlight "Backstage Disney" on the bonus features menu, and press the right arrow. A guitar will light up. Hit enter and you'll see a live performance from Demi Lovato (4:19). Here she plays guitar and sings a song she wrote about making Camp Rock in front of her castmates. The vocals here fall far short of those she produces from the studio, which is saying something. It's embarrassing to see others watching this trainwreck in person.
The 16x9 main menu begins with animated solo shots of each Jonas Brother and Demi Lovato, finally putting all four of them against an animated backdrop. Stars, spotlights, and projections dance around behind them and an instrumental "We Rock" plays in 30-second loops.
The disc comes in a standard black keepcase with protective side-snaps and an embossed, holographic slipcover around it. Inside the case is a booklet of ads, a chapter index card, and a Disney Movie Rewards Magic Code currently worth 100 points.
As expected, this DVD is equipped with Disney's FastPlay, meaning that unless you hit your remote's Menu button, you'll have to sit through a selection of previews, then the movie, and finally a sampling of bonus features, which all play automatically.
Before FastPlay even starts up, there's a promo for Disney Blu-ray discs. Other previews available on the main menu: Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition, "Wizards of Waverly Place": Wizard School, "Phineas and Ferb": The Fast and the Phineas, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, The Secret of the Magic Gourd, Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, "The Wizards of Waverly Place" on The Disney Channel, 101 Dalmatians 11: Patch's London Adventure, Disney DVD Games (based on "Hannah Montana" and High School Musical), and the Disney Movie Rewards program. There's also a second promo for Disney Blu-ray, this one doing a better job at demonstrating the benefits of the new format.
If you were hoping for another High School Musical with Camp Rock, you've hoped in vain. With a weak mix of generic R&B and quasi-rock in place of catchy, throwback bubble gum pop, and without a breezy sense of humor, this attempt to reclaim that phenomenon fails. The story is diverting but just barely and with only a couple of fun songs thrown in the mix, that's not enough to earn my recommendation. If you insist on buying, I'll say this much for it: the DVD's supplements are sizable and enlightening in comparison to your typical TV movie's home video release. So watch if you will but get ready to rock and roll your eyes.
New to DVD: Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Concert The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition
Disney Channel Original Movies: High School Musical High School Musical 2 Minutemen The Cheetah Girls 2 Cadet Kelly
Step Up 2 The Streets Hannah Montana: Livin' the Rock Star Life! Newsies Wish Gone Amiss College Road Trip
Wizards of Waverly Place: Wizard School Phineas and Ferb: The Fast and the Phineas That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana
Jonas Brothers DVDs: Hannah Montana: One in a Million Meet the Robinsons The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition
Jonas Brothers CDs: The Little Mermaid: 2-Disc Special Edition Soundtrack Disneymania 4 Disneymania 5 Disney Channel Holiday
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Reviewed September 8, 2008.