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CAMP ROCK 2: THE FINAL JAM
Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Demi Lovato, Joe Jonas, Nick Jonas, Kevin Jonas, Alyson Stoner, Maria Canals-Barrera. Chloe Bridges, Matthew “Mdot” Finley, Daniel Fathers
Director: Paul Hoen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 104 Minutes
Release Date: September 7, 2010

It's on, it's on, IT'S ON!”

Film ***

It's all about sacrifices sometimes...when Disney offered me a chance to review the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack for the newest Disney Channel original film Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, I said yes. I said it because I actually am a big admirer of the movie's star, Demi Lovato. Her co-stars, The Jonas Brothers? Not so much.

I'm not a hater, I'm just not a fan. The only Jonas Brothers songs I've actually walked around singing weren't even by them, but from the South Park episode that spoofed them. I've seen many, many of their videos on Disney Channel over the years, and I couldn't name you one title or hum one bar even if you threatened to delete Demi Lovato off of my iPod.

But Ms. Lovato is another story. The first time I saw a video from her on Disney Channel, my eyes and mouth were both agape. She wasn't just another cute kid off the assembly line who sang just well enough to pass. Her voice was amazing...nobody as young as her should have a set of pipes that powerful and that perfectly controlled. I liked her well enough that I watched The Jonas Brothers' 3D concert film just for her small part on the stage with them.

I even decided I had to check out the first Camp Rock, which was all forgettable apart from her songs. Yes, the Jo-Bros were there, but it was a yawn. Still, sometimes you like a performer enough to sit through an hour or so of mediocrity just for a few moments of her radiance.

Which brings us to Camp Rock 2, where Demi rewarded me not only with the treat of her voice, but with a surprisingly and thoroughly enjoyable movie that I think might be the best original film Disney Channel has ever produced.

Mitchie Torres (Lovato) is back for another summer at the camp that first showed her (and the rest of us) just what she was capable of. Her mother (Canals-Barerra) is back, as are her friends and camp owner Brown (Fathers). Best of all, Shane (Joe Jonas) is coming back with his brothers Nate and Jason (Nick and Kevin Jonas) in the group Connect 3 for a new summer with the girl who won his heart the first time around.

But all is not rosy...Brown's former bandmate has started a camp of his own. Camp Star has all the flash, technology and theatrics that Camp Rock lacks...and it's right across the lake from Camp Rock. A few students depart, but even worse is most of Brown's staff leave as well with the offer of double salary.

It looks like the summer could be over before it begins, but Mitchie and friends don't give up so easily. Taking over the duties of the camp, the youngsters keep it going...some of the best scenes involve Jason having to deal with the troublesome little kids at the camp...but for how long? With Camp Star casting a very big shadow, is it even possible for the plucky tweens at Camp Rock to make their beloved summer destination last another year?

It all comes down to a final jam...the two camps will bring it all in a live and televised head-to-head competition. It will be Camp Star's incredibly talented newcomer Luke (Finley), who has an ego to match, against the sunny Mitchie and friends, who only love the music. Meanwhile, Mitchie and Shane aren't the only romance brewing...Nate finds himself falling for the enemy, the beautiful daughter (Bridges) of the rival camp owner. Can love truly conquer all?

The story is light and predictable, but what impresses most is the amazing talent on display here. This is a high energy and fun musical that is simply MADE by the performances of the young stars. Most veteran Hollywood casts should have the work ethic these kids have, because what they pull off is polished and professional far beyond their young years. They sing, they dance, they work together like a finely tuned instrument, and I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't find entertainment here.

Two new stars are wonderful surprises...Matthew “Mdot” Finley might not play a likeable character, but the young man has some moves and a great voice. It felt like watching the debut of the next big thing, and I'm betting he won't fail to deliver on the promise he showed here. The other, Chloe Bridges, is beyond beautiful and lights up the screen in such a natural way that I'll bet many a casting director was getting a busy signal by the time this movie finished airing for the first time.

The songs are more plentiful and better this time around. Every number is good, but there are at least a pair of standouts. One is Nick Jonas with a guitar singing “Introducing Me” to Chloe Bridges as a way of finally opening up and telling her something about himself. It's sweet, cute, and very memorable.

The other might be the best song I've heard this year from anywhere. It's Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas teaming up for “Wouldn't Change a Thing”...an amazingly powerful tune that showcases a blend of a male and female voice that gave me a chill for the first time since I heard my band's lead singer Erin Barnes perform a duet with her husband Matt. I'm still not a Jonas fan, but Joe's harmonies with Demi are perfect and tight, and the emotion both bring to the tune elevate it into something I hope will find a rightful place on the pop charts.

I wouldn't dream of giving away the ending, but when two talented groups lay it all on the line against each other, the real winner is the audience. Despite all the recent musicals taking place in high school and Disney's seemingly never-ending factory of kids with cute faces and microphones, Camp Rock 2 is a new high point, and really the first evidence I've seen since Chicago that the musical really could enjoy a full and fruitful comeback as an American art form.

Video ***1/2

Disney Blu-rays never disappoint, and made-for-television events get all the attention and glory that their expensive theatrical productions rate. This is a beautiful looking disc that comes across with crystal clarity and definition, natural colors and a terrific presentation scheme in both low and bright settings. The musical numbers are big, and you can see everybody on the screen at the same time. A very nice job.

Audio ***1/2

It's the songs that bring out the punch in the audio, delivering dynamic range and bass to compliment the dialogue and quieter scenes. This is not an action film, so you can't expect constant rear channel usage, but there are enough crowd scenes to engage those isolated speakers to help finish making this a winning delivery.

Features **1/2

This combo pack includes both the DVD and Blu-ray editions of the movie for fans who haven't yet converted to hi-def or who want a regular disc for their car players, as well as a digital copy disc for even more portability. There is a “Rock-Along” extra so you can sing with your favorite songs, plus a featurette on the newest stars of the movie and a collection of videos from real camp rockers from around the world. This disc also features an extended version of the movie, with two numbers not seen during the original television broadcast.

Summary:

Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam is a terrific and tuneful way to wind down the summer. With an incredible cast of hardworking and talented young performers led by the ever-amazing Demi Lovato, this Blu-ray delivered everything I expected, and more than I hoped.

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