Camp Rock 1 & 2
Camp Rock (November 7/08)
Featuring appearances by all three of the Jonas brothers, Camp Rock stars Demi Lovato as Mitchie Torres - an aspiring musician who'd love nothing more than to spend the summer at the eponymous destination. Her wish comes true after her mother (Maria Canals-Barrera's Connie) lands a gig at the camp as the head chef, with trouble inevitably ensuing as Mitchie starts lying about her familial history in an effort to fit in with the cool kids. Camp Rock unfolds in a manner that's virtually guaranteed to thrill tweens and bore adults, as screenwriters Karin Gist, Regina Hicks, Julie Brown, and Paul Brown offer up a storyline that's as hopelessly hackneyed as one might've expected. Their stubborn refusal to even momentarily deviate from the formulaic template certainly plays an instrumental role in the film's undeniably tedious atmosphere, and one ultimately can't shake the feeling that the whole thing exists to give Disney a shot at another High School Musical-type sensation (and indeed, a sequel is already in the works). The most depressing aspect of Camp Rock, however, is undoubtedly the presence of Dean Cundey behind the camera, as the famed cinematographer - he's worked on such classics as, among others, the Back to the Future trilogy, Jurassic Park, and The Thing - deserves so much better than this.
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
An obvious improvement over its unwatchable predecessor, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam follows Demi Lovato's Mitchie Torres as she once again arrives at the title locale for a summer of music and fun-loving shenanigans - with problems ensuing as a bigger, flashier camp across the lake lures away a large number of Camp Rock's staff and kids. Mitchie and her friends subsequently decide to challenge their newfound rivals to a musical battle, with the winner set to be crowned the ultimate music-oriented summer camp. Much like the original film, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam places a heavy emphasis on hackneyed plot developments and characters that are almost laughably one-dimensional - with Mitchie's absurd transformation from easy-going teen to hard-nosed control freak certainly ranking high on the film's list of unfortunate transgressions. It's just as clear, however, that the movie boasts a number of catchy, thoroughly engaging musical numbers that provide a temporary respite for the otherwise stale atmosphere, with Paul Hoen's energetic direction mirrored in the charismatic (and extremely upbeat) performances from such cast members as Lovato, Alyson Stoner, and, of course, Joe, Kevin, and Nick Jonas. Despite the sporadically better-than-expected vibe, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam is ultimately unable to wholeheartedly overcome its pervasive aimed-directly-at-tweens sensibility - which ensures that the film is destined to fare best among fans of either Lovato (who is actually quite good here, admittedly) or the Jonas brothers.