Disney’s made-for-TV movie Rock Camp — starring pre-adolescent megastars the Jonas Brothers — stormed across the screenscape last weekend like a tween twister, touching down on Disney Channel first on Friday night, then ABC on Saturday night, then ABC Family on Sunday, and on Monday landed at Disney.com. The peppy musical about big dreams swirling at a summer camp for aspiring Disney Channel stars — er, I mean, pop stars — earned eyeball numbers that while maybe not High School Musical 2–level exciting, certainly affirmed for the Mouse House suits that its formula for this type of thing — cute kids, popularity drama, a diva blonde, catchy tunes, positive vibes — won’t have to go out of style anytime soon. Expecting high-quality TV out of a shamelessly packaged product like Rock Camp is a losing game — a critic’s trap, like slapping a stranger’s beaming kid on the playground — but I think it’s safe to assess how well the message gets delivered. And though “Rock” is in the title, and “Be yourself” is the big mantra — sung, spoken and probably rendered in intricate patterns on everyone’s clothing, for all I know — the movie is hardly a lesson in how to turn young emotions into a guitar riff, a carefully crafted lyric, an awesome dance move or a winning stage presence. Instead, you’ve got one kid — Joe Jonas’ character, boldly cast within type as one-third of a boy band — who is forced to go back to Rock Camp when bad behavior in public tarnishes his image; sweet-faced singer/songwriter heroine Mitchie (Demi Lovato), who forgoes her keeping-it-real roots and poses as wealthy and connected so she can hang with a mean, popular clique of girls; and queen bee Tess (Meaghan Jette Martin), who casually crushes others’ hopes because she herself is ignored by her celebrity singer mom. Everyone makes nice at the end, which is fine. But let’s face it: With non-talent-related behavioral crises that reflect the tabloid misadventures of teens’ favorite peer-group idols, the movie should have been called Fame Camp.
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