Kids who go to sleep-away camp look forward all school year to friends they see only in summer, not showering all that often and freedom. Parents love camp, too, but for different reasons.
The camp themes of good versus evil and fake versus genuine play out in Disney Channel's "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam" Friday, Sept. 3.
The sequel to "Camp Rock," a huge hit two years ago, reunites the Jonas Brothers as the band Connect 3, with Demi Lovato as Mitchie. There are fledgling, chaste romances and the lesson that leadership requires cooperation and hard work.
The plot pitches talented teens against other talented teens, culminating in a singing and dancing competition with high stakes. An interesting aside is that the audience watching the competition at the end of the movie is made up of real fans. They were found when the Jonas Brothers and Lovato Twittered the need for extras. Within three minutes, 60,000 people had applied for the 1,500 slots, says a Disney publicist, and by that night the traffic had reached 1 million, crashing the server.
Lovato ("Sonny With a Chance"), whom the channel has been grooming for stardom, is aggressively earnest as she sings and dances. Though there's plenty for JoBro fans to enjoy, this is Lovato's movie.
"This was the first film I was not totally overshadowed by them," Lovato says from a Manhattan hotel room. "Going into the film, I knew this time would be different. I couldn't get away with not doing my best performance."
The movie is better than it needs to be, considering it has a built-in audience. Lovato, who has been touring with the Jonas Brothers, was thrust into the frenzy swirling around the brothers.
"Their fans are supportive, and they are supportive of me," she says. "It's crazy to arrive at 4 in the morning and there are people inside the hotel."
On a rainy day in New York, the brothers are sequestered in a hotel. Gigantic bodyguards, placed every so many yards in the hotel hallways, keep watch for overzealous fans. The brothers, who get along easily with one another, laugh as they recall their camp days.
Camp, says Kevin Jonas, is "amazing. You never want to lose your love of camp." He attended camp for nine years, Joe for seven and Nick for four. They all say they love it, and Joe's favorite memory is "the last day of camp, there was a giant relay race."
Kevin recalls boys daring one another. "You'd eat an entire onion by yourself," he says. Joe adds, "Or you would eat a whole piece of Spam."
"Camp is so universal," Kevin says. "It buys that sense of togetherness. You have camp friends that you only see at camp and couldn't see an entire year."
Camp Rock is for kids who want to be rock stars. A rival rock-wannabe camp, Camp Star, sets up business across the lake and threatens Camp Rock's existence.
"At Camp Rock, everyone has grown up a little more," Kevin says. "Joe and Nick and I are in it more, and we take on a leadership role, the ownership of the camp -- we feel a responsibility. You feel part of the journey -- wanting the camp to survive."
The camp owner is on the brink of closing Camp Rock as counselors and kids defect to Camp Star, but Mitchie rallies the troops to save the sweet, no-frills camp they love.
"The fact that it's tons of different stories and has a moral to it," is her takeaway, Lovato says. "And being the right kind of leader. She becomes very bossy. I remember girls can be super bossy. Girls can learn from that."
Sure, the kids break into song and dance at any given moment. And it's about as realistic as these situations are in any musical. But remember, Disney ushered in the model for movie musicals for kids with "High School Musical." The choreography is devoid of sexuality, and to understand what an accomplishment that is, tune into most music videos and see how comfortable parents are allowing tweens to watch.
"Dancing is something I have always been passionate about," Lovato says. "I started with jazz, tap and ballet, and when I hit about 10, I started taking hip-hop."
She can also belt a number, evident as Mitchie leads everyone in "Brand New Day," a catchy tune co-written by Kara DioGuardi of "American Idol" fame.
There's something here for parents who know their album covers. The brothers pose briefly as musicians from iconic LPs. There are nods to such cover art as Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" and Crosby, Stills & Nash's first album.
One of the best songs is Nate (Nick Jonas) singing, "Introducing Me" with the lyrics of: "I eat cheese only on pizza, except in a homemade quesadilla, otherwise it smells like cheese ."
Sure, the movie's title includes the word "final," but the ending, which will not be revealed here, leaves open the possibility of sequels.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times