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Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam - Extended Edition Blu-ray & DVD Combo Review

Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack cover art -- Click to buy from Amazon.com Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
Movie, Blu-ray & DVD Details

Director: Paul Hoen / Writers: Karin Gist, Regina Hicks (screenplay & characters); Dan Berendsen (screenplay); Julie Brown, Paul Brown (characters)

Cast: Demi Lovato (Mitchie Torres), Joe Jonas (Shane Gray), Nick Jonas (Nate), Kevin Jonas (Jason), Daniel Fathers (Brown Cesario), Daniel Kash (Axel Turner), Maria Canals-Barrera (Connie Torres), Chloe Bridges (Dana Turner), Matthew "Mdot" Finley (Luke Williams), Meaghan Martin (Tess Tyler), Alyson Stoner (Caitlyn Geller), Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (Ella), Jasmine Richards (Margaret "Peggy Warburton" Dupree), Roshon Fegan (Sander Loya), Jordan "J" Francis (Barron James), Arisa Cox (Georgina Farlow)

Songs: "Brand New Day", "Different Summers", "Fire", "Can't Back Down", "It's On", "Wouldn't Change a Thing", "Heart and Soul", "You're My Favorite Song", "Introducing Me", "Walking in My Shoes", "Tear it Down", "What We Came Here For", "This Is Our Song"

Original Air Date: September 3, 2010 / Running Time: 104 Minutes (Extended Edition) / Rating: TV-G

1.78:1 (Anamorphic) Widescreen / BD: DTS-HD MA 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, Spanish Latin American, French, Dutch); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French; BD-only: English, Spanish L.A., Dutch
Closed Captioned; Some Extras Subtitled
Release Date: September 7, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $44.99
Three single-sided discs (1 BD-50, 1 DVD-9, and 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Double-wide Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP)

Buy Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam from Amazon.com: Buy Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • 1-Disc DVD • Soundtrack CD

By Aaron Wallace

So much has changed since the first Camp Rock. Joe Jonas is no longer dating Taylor Swift. Nick Jonas has his own band. Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez totally aren't BFFs anymore. This is truly a different world. In this startling new social context, comparing Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam to its predecessor seems nearly impossible, but I'll give it a shot.

The inevitable follow-up to Disney Channel's hit 2008 movie finds Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato) back at Camp Rock, where she hopes to polish her subpar singing skills. She sees many familiar faces there, all of them a little too old to be this excited about summer camp. Shortly after arriving, she learns that Camp Star, a rival program across the lake, threatens to put Camp Rock out of business with its hordes of marginally more talented children.

As Mitchie Torres, diva Demi Lovato pops, locks, and drops it in this "Camp Rock 2" showdown dance sequence. Get a good look at Kevin Jonas (left) while you can -- he won't be in "Camp Rock 2" much more after this. His brothers Nick (right) and Joe fare better.

Apparently, the campers are a lot more distraught about the prospect of Camp Rock closing than I am. Fortunately, the world-famous Gray Brothers are coming back to Camp Rock this year because, hey, if it was normal for A-list celebs to spend last summer at some random camp, why shouldn't they do it again this year?

You'll recognize the Gray Brothers because they look, act, and sound exactly like the Jonas Brothers, who also happen to play them in this movie.
With Shane Gray (Joe Jonas) and his less important brothers (Nate and Jason, played by Nick and Kevin) on the scene, major television networks are willing to come to a grinding halt to cover the battle between these two camps. That's just the kind of attention that can save Camp Rock. Yay!

You probably already know how you feel about the first Camp Rock. Here's some good news for those who didn't see it or wish they hadn't: The Final Jam is better. But here's some bad news: it's only better in that "if I have to rank them" kind of way, not in a way that really matters.

The story is excruciatingly conventional, a straightforward rehashing of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit with a bit of "American Idol" and any given critically-trashed romantic comedy thrown in for good measure. How many times have we seen kids come together to save their school or something like it? The Final Jam brings nothing new to the table. Just more of the tired, old same.

Nate Gray (Nick Jonas) has the hots for this teenaged Liv Tyler/Angelina Jolie mash-up (Chloe Bridges). I admit I appreciated Camp Star's unacknowledged tribute to Michael Jackson, but is banality much of an homage?

Reflecting his commandeering of the spotlight from his older brother in recent years, Nick Jonas plays as big a role in this sequel as Joe did in the first. Unfortunately, his every scene is a humdrum round of "she loves me, she loves me not". Spoiler: she loves him.
Camp Rock 2 Jonas Brothers song clip - "Heart and Soul":
Second spoiler: that's not a spoiler... it's painfully obvious the moment she walks on the screen. Nevertheless, the extra storyline does give the sequel a bit more gas to drive on. Meanwhile, Kevin Jonas is again confined to the periphery, awkwardly trying to find a place in this movie when the screenwriters clearly wish he didn't have one.

But the Jonas Brothers are actually the best part of Camp Rock 2. Demi Lovato is the worst. If she's going to lip-sync so poorly, can't she at least do it to a pleasant voice? Despite tough competition from Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, Lovato takes the crown as the most vocally underwhelming recording artist to be dumped by a Jonas Brother. She's a sufficient actress but only when she's speaking and standing still. The garish choreography in The Final Jam is relentlessly over the top and Lovato's histrionics don't help, nor do the woefully generic throwaway songs.

If you've made it this far, you probably don't care, but Camp Rock 2 was released to home video this month, just four days after its broadcast premiere. Like the first movie, the sequel is available on an Extended Edition DVD. Unlike the original, this one was also granted a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack (a clear favorite over at Disney Home Entertainment but a very rare thing indeed for Disney Channel Original Movies). The latter release is profiled below.

Such emotion! Such expression! Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato provide squint acting at its finest. "You mean I don't have to sing OR dance?" That's right, Maria Canals-Barrera. You're not a teenager, so you don't matter!

VIDEO and AUDIO

Camp Rock 2's high-definition transfer for Blu-ray is probably the best presentation of any Disney Channel Original Movie to date. A far cry from the cheap-looking digital video that long defined the cable channel, this release offers an impressively deep and detailed picture. You won't choose this disc to model your plasma screen or anything, but if you've watched DCOMs in the past, you'll be pleasantly surprised (with the video, not the movie).

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack is also really impressive. Making full use of the sound field in all five channels, the audio stands out as more enveloping than the norm. Sound effects, background noise, dialogue, and especially music all come through in the way a proper HD surround track should. My hat's off to Disney for stepping up the production (if only they'd done the same with the script).

Like the Blu-ray, the DVD included in this combo pack presents the movie in 1.78:1 widescreen. The first movie was fullscreen-only on DVD and widescreen-only on Blu-ray. Because Disney Channel typically frames for and airs both in 4:3 and 16:9 these days, either is arguably acceptable. The best thing would be to make both available, but with the days of 4:3 content numbered, Disney made the preferred choice, even if DVD collectors will have to deal with different aspect ratios for each movie.

There's a remarkable, unexpected disparity in video quality between the Blu-ray and DVD. The DVD transfer is excessively soft and lacking in detail, but is certainly watchable. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 track is similar to the Blu-ray's DTS-HD track. In other words, it's pretty excellent, but with a little less oomph.

The Blu-ray offers four foreign language Dolby 5.1 soundtracks: Spanish, Spanish Latin American, French, and Dutch. Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish, Spanish L.A., French, and Dutch. All Blu-ray bonus features are subtitled, with the exception of the music videos. The DVD has two foreign language Dolby 5.1 dubs: Spanish and French. Extending to the format's minimal bonus features, the DVD's subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.

Thank God they included the on-screen lyrics in the "Camp Rock 2" Rock-Along mode.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

There are three bonus features on the Blu-ray Disc, the first of which is a standard sing-along mode, labeled here as "Rock-Along".

It lets you play the movie with animated song lyrics appearing onscreen as subtitles. Note that this is the one and only bonus feature included on the DVD edition. With a relatively short movie and so few bonus features, there's really no excuse for stripping the DVD platter down to just one real extra.

Next up is "Music Videos From Camp Rockers Around the World" (HD). Local singers and bands in France, Spain, Benelux, Germany, and Italy take on songs from Camp Rock 2. There's one music video for each of those places and several are bigger productions than you might expect from a Disney Channel international marketing project. Even when they aren't singing in English, I'd rather hear any of these folks than Demi Lovato. It's worth noting that Ms. Lovato sings a duet in the Germany music video and also appears via the Final Jam set. The videos run nearly 17 minutes in total with "Play All" and can also be watched individually.

Finally, there's "Getting to Know Camp Star's Newest Stars" (5:44, HD). Disney Channel veteran and Camp Rock star Alyson Stoner harks back to her "Mike's Super Short Show" days in an interview with Matthew "Mdot" Finley and Chloe Bridges. Starring as the lead characters in the new rival camp, the actors reflect on their moviemaking experience. We also get to see some brief clips from their auditions.

Listed as a bonus feature but not really one is "Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go" (1:04, HD), a standard tutorial on/advertisement for Disney Digital Copy. (This also appears on the DVD, as does a DVD-exclusive Dylan and Cole Sprouse "Blu-ray is Suite" promo running 4:44.)

Disney's press release also categorizes the extended cut of the movie as a bonus feature. Not having seen the television airing, I can't evaluate the differences between the two cuts. The extended version reportedly runs seven minutes longer and I can't imagine they make much a difference. The packaging boasts "2 Never-Before-Seen Music Scenes!", presumably referring to the extra footage. Unfortunately, Disney doesn't include the original TV cut on either of this month's releases. Releasing an extended version of a movie four days after its premiere certainly seems like a very deliberate marketing gimmick, but it's nothing new.

If your player supports it, the Blu-ray is also equipped with BD-Live interactivity.

Camp Rock 2's DVD main menu also works as a ready-made cover for the next Hollister catalog.

The Blu-ray opens with automatic previews for Disney Blu-ray/Panasonic, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Tangled (a more enticing preview than previous ones). The main menu's Sneak Peeks listing leads to a reel (12:17) that includes ads for the following (none of them individually selectable):
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Disney Movie Rewards, Genuine Disney Treasure (with Tinker Bell), Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition, Oceans & The Crimson Wing, Toy Story 3, A Christmas Carol, Fantasia 2-Movie Collection, and Disney's environmental Project Green (with Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato). After that, it reruns the exact same previews that played automatically at the start of the disc. For Disney, this is a curiously unorganized presentation of Sneak Peeks. The FastPlay-equipped DVD plays most of the same ads (also not individually accessible), adding ones for "Phineas and Ferb": A Very Perry Christmas and "Sonny With a Chance", and using Princess and the Frog to promote "Genuine Disney Treasure" (and vaguely object to piracy).

The Blu-ray's main menu plays a loop of "It's On" (probably the catchiest song in the movie) while various characters appear in different poses. Props go to the menu designer for including little visual cues that synch nicely with the music. The DVD's 16:9 main menu uses the same basic scheme, while its static submenus set to various songs from the soundtrack.

The Blu-ray disc is packaged alongside the standard DVD (identical to the one sold separately) and a digital copy DVD-ROM, all three housed inside a double-width Blu-ray keepcase. Also in the case are a packet of advertisements and a Disney Movie Rewards magic code (worth 125 points). The holographic, embossed slipcover reuses the non-holographic keepcase art and puts a big yellow border around it. As usual for a Disney combo pack, the Blu-ray disc itself borrows the cover art, while the DVD is plain gray, and the digital copy disc is barely more colorful (it's plain gold).

Warriors go to battle with less intensity than these Camp Rock kids have for their summer camp.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Blu-ray presentation is pretty excellent but everything else about Camp Rock 2 falls flatter than its cast when hitting high notes. Bland music, exaggerated choreography, and fast adherence to formula make this an instantly forgettable movie, only nominally superior to the original. Let's just hope that when Disney calls this one The Final Jam, they mean it.

More on the Combo / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy on DVD / Buy the Soundtrack CD

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Demi Lovato: Camp Rock • Princess Protection Program • Sonny With a Chance: Sonny's Big Break Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
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Get the Jonas Brothers - Kevin, Nick and Joe - on ©Disney Stationery at Expressionery.com

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Reviewed September 20, 2010. Screencaps from DVD.