I have heard this being called the Summer of Sequels by various TV and radio entertainment people, and it is true that many films came out that fit into that category: Toy Story 3, Sex and the City 2, Iron Man 2, Predators, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, and Shrek Forever After. While these were all seen in movie theaters, the sequel that had the most buzz (at least in my family) was Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam. After watching it on Disney Channel last night with my daughter, I can say it was worth the wait indeed!
The cast is led by the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato as it was last time, but this time there is a new romance, plenty of new tunes, and a challenge from another camp that spice up the story. It seems the Jo Bros and Demi are more than up for the challenge, with Demi as the once shy Mitchie Torres shining brightly again, and Joe Jonas as Shane Gray coming through with a strong performance.
In the first film the conflict was Mitchie hiding her true identity as daughter of Connie, the camp cook (Maria Canals-Barrera). This time a decidedly more confident and popular Mitchie returns to enthusiastic greetings from former friends. She also does not have to win Shane’s affection; rather, he is trying to make this a special summer for them as a couple, but other conflicts await to throw a monkey wrench into the works.
This year there is a new rival for Mitchie and company: Camp Star. Since this camp has challenged Camp Rock to a musical smack down, Mitchie becomes so all consumed in preparing for the event that she doesn’t make time for Shane. Meanwhile, Nate (Nick Jonas) falls for Dana (Chloe Bridges), a girl from the rival camp setting up a Romeo and Juliet type of scenario, with Nate even wooing her with guitar – but she forgoes the balcony scene and stands right in front of him.
I know my daughter liked this movie better than the first film, and probably more than any other reason it is because the Jo Bros are front and center in this one (in the first film Nick and Kevin were merely window dressing). Also, little brother Frankie even gets into the act here as a camper, so it is more Jonas Brothers all the way.
Camp Rock 2 does all things the right – and obviously the Disney – way, and that means that its got the target audience right where it wants them. Kids like my daughter and all the other tweens out there get to see Nate pine longingly for the girl, Shane and Mitchie disagree about things (and yet we know they’re never going to break up) and even former bad girl Tess Tyler (Meaghan Martin) reverts to the dark side, but the kids know that all will be right again in the end by the final number.
The final showdown pits Camp Rock against Camp Star in a televised competition that allows audience members to text in their votes for the winners. There are two huge showstoppers that seem like the Opening Ceremony to the Olympic Games more than anything else, but that follows the tradition of High School Musical 2 where more – much, much more – seems like a compromise and even less than as good as in the original.
That small nit aside, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam is sure to be a hit with kids and their parents. I know my daughter plans to watch it again tonight – Disney inevitably broadcasts its original movies for three nights in a row on the premiere weekend – and no doubt many other kids will follow suit. Parents should also prepare to acquire the soundtrack – or wait for Christmas because I have been already warned that it will be on Santa’s list this year. The songs are all energetic with easy to remember lyrics. By the end of the show, my daughter was singing along like she had heard them all before – and she had when she saw the Jonas Brothers live this summer. Is that shrewd marketing or what?
One thing to note is that the ending makes it clear that there is almost definitely going to be a Camp Rock 3, so the only question is will Disney take the same path it did with High School Musical 3 and release it in theaters first? Otherwise, we can rest assured that the Demi and the Jo Bros will be back for more camping and rocking and jamming. Who could ask for anything more?