Camp Rock II: The Final Jam

Disney Channel has a habit of taking a success and making a sequel out of it; this is what they have done with Camp Rock. Of course, why not? That’s what they did with High School Musical; once realizing its lucrative potential they didn’t demur to get a second one into production. And, while the cast was still young enough, they managed to crank out a third into the theaters, generating, I’m sure, plenty of revenue for Disney. Of course, the quality of the second and third High School Musical films was lacking and it seemed that they reused the same outline of the plot of the first and just replaced some of the people and locations (or brought some of the obscure ones from the first into the foreground in the second and third) to change things a little bit. There’s the classic formula that the second and third follow: Gabriella is in love with Troy, they want to have wonderful times together, Sharpay ┬átries to ruin their relationship, Troy has his “venting song”, Gabriella has her “venting song”, then everything turns out fine again. Of course, there are some nuances in each of the movies, but for the most part that seems to be the formula they follow. After all, if it works, why make it every different? No sense in fixing what’s broken.

But movies have to be different to stay interesting; if they made five High School Musical movies about the exact same thing, would they garner more attention or incur more censure? I’d say the latter would be an accurate guess; but I’m not a movie expert, so I really can’t be certain.

I can be certain, however, that Camp Rock II doesn’t really follow this formula.

In Camp Rock I, Mitchie (portrayed by Demi Lovato) was the new girl and drew much animosity from the other campers. In particular, Tes (portrayed by Meaghan Jette Martin) finds her to be a threat to her popularity and musical dominance in Camp Rock, so she makes plenty of efforts to brand Mitchie with as much social stigma as possible. One thing about Camp Rock that is different from many other Disney movies is that music plays a role in the story and is not just an entertainment device; the camp is dedicated to teaching its attendants about music and its intricacies and helping them express themselves through singing or whatever instrument they happen to play. This becomes an underlying theme as Mitchie tries to discover who she is through her music. Of course, this self-discovery is not as pronounced as I’m making it out to be, but it’s there; vaguely, it’s there.

And, to nobody’s surprise, I’m sure, there is the love story that plays throughout the movie; Shane Gray (portrayed by Joe Jonas), who is about as narcissistic and fussy as you could ever imagine a rock star being, becomes enamored with the girl he heard playing a beautiful song on the piano. It turns out in the end that Mitchie was the girl who he had heard and, when he realizes it, they do their wonderful duet at the end and the movie ends shortly thereafter. One of the wonderful qualities of their relationship (and the whole camp experience that they go through together) that many Disney movies cannot hope to achieve is the change that Shane goes through. Being a “rock star” like himself and losing touch with reality and the beauty of music (not just how it can be exploited for profit), the journey he goes through to rediscover the sheer joy of playing a song by a lake with a girl he loves is simply wonderful and very satisfying. And his uncle, Brown (portrayed by Daniel Fathers), does a wonderful job leading him back on the right track. In the end he becomes a wholesome person and is not near as querulous as he was when the movie began.

But Camp Rock II does away with all of that. Gone are the beauties of music that they had tried to bring to the foreground; gone is the fastidious disposition of Shane Gray; gone is Mitchie’s low self-esteem. There seems to be no characterization any more, and no love of music, and the entire point of Camp Rock seems to be shifted entirely into the background.

Which is why, if you’re going to watch Camp Rock II, it is almost a necessity to watch Camp Rock I first, because then you realize what’s at stake in the second movie.

That’s because in the second, everything that had been Mitchie’s world in the first is threatened by a rival camp across the lake next to which their camp is situated. When they are invited to an opening bonfire early in the movie, they discover that is not so much a camp as it is a training ground for musicians. Everything about it seems to be ten times what Camp Rock is; and, right near the beginning, nearly all of the Camp Rock counselors leave and the future of the camp is threatened. That, and the fact that the rival camp is attracting much more attention than Camp Rock and therefore threatens to collapse it by stealing away some of its campers, is basically the impetus that drives the rest of the plot.

So, while music seems to take less of a role in the story of this movie, Camp Rock I gives you an idea of what’s going on “behind the scenes” during Camp Rock II. Music is still important to all of the campers, but the story that is set in motion takes up the majority of the screen time, so they really didn’t have time to touch on the characters’ love of music. There are tidbits here and there, but for the most part, the story comes first.

But with the camp in danger, and everything the audience learned and cared about in the first movie at stake, I suppose it’s justifiable. All in all, it definitely wasn’t a bad movie; I certainly didn’t walk away feeling like I had wasted my time watching it.

And one scene at the end is so well done that I was surprised it was Disney who made the movie. You’ll probably know which one it is when it comes.

I admit that I skipped most of the songs (I really can’t stand rap and hip-hop), but some of them were better than I expected and I managed to get through about one or two in their entirety.

I’d give this movie three and a half out of five stars. Not utterly spectacular, and certainly not better than the first, but it was still a worthwhile watch and, honestly, was not as bad as I expected it to be. As with all Disney movies, there are plenty of quirks to complain about, but there is almost always a decent message hidden deep within it. Give it a watch; you just might like it.

But skip the songs.