Tuned In


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Also in this week’s Time, I have a quick-blurb review of The Jonas Brothers’ Camp Rock, which premieres tonight on Disney Channel:

The Jonas Brothers — those three words being all the review the tween audience needs — get a feature that might as well be titled High School Musical 2 II. (Summer vacation, evil rich girl, be-true-to-yourself moral? Check, check, check.) The band has a refreshing scruffiness but except for Joe gets too little screen time to leaven the formula slickness.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the mainly grown-up readers of Tuned In are not that interested in how good or bad Camp Rock is. So allow me to indulge myself in a few brief thoughts on a different topic that you are also not interested in: how do you review a movie that is not intended to be, by any standards generally employed by adult TV critics, good?

One way of dealing with this is to throw up your hands and try to guess whether the audience of the movie will like it a lot, whether it will get big ratings / a huge opening gross, etc. I call this the if-you-like-that-sort-of-thing review, and it’s a cop-out. On the other hand, it’s not exactly fair, or useful, to judge Camp Rock by the same yardstick as, say, John Adams.

What you can do, instead, is judge the movie by the standards and goals of its genre: in this case, the Aspirational Fantasy Movie About High School Made Mainly for Kids Who Are Way Too Young for High School. If you just decide that, hey all movies like that are crap, but the tweens will eat it up, so it’s all good, that’s condescending and pretty much useless. The fact is, a movie like that—any kind of movie, I believe—can be done well or badly, creatively or formulaically.

I would never go out of my way to watch High School Musical, but I can recognize that it created its own sensibility and look, and—within a very tightly circumscribed set of familiar plots and characters—had the feeling of a new take on the genre, which is an accomplishment. (And I actually liked HSM2, with its wild-colored set design and embrace of its own campiness, better than the original.) Camp Rock, though, is pretty much an obvious retread of that franchise—specifically of HSM2, which was also about a summer-vacation setting, a music competition, a middle-class hero(ine) learning to be true to herself, a diva-esque mean rich girl, and so on. It’ll probably get a zillion happy viewers regardless, but you might as well call a copy a copy.

And that is my report on Reviewing Camp Rock by The Disney Channel.