As annoying as it might be, you can't really blame the Disney people for trying to milk the "High School Musical" formula for all it's worth. After all, the tween sensation has poured untold millions into Mickey's pockets, and consequently, we've been hit with a "HSM" avalanche that has featured not only movies, but ice shows, concert tours, stage productions and even a reality series slated for next month.
On the other hand, there's something creatively shameful about taking the essential DNA of "HSM" and injecting it into another movie being touted as fresh and new. But that's exactly what they've done with "Camp Rock," perhaps the summer's most anticipated TV flick.
The story follows a girl (Demi Lovato) from a working-class family who develops a crush on a dreamy young boy (Joe Jonas), and goes on a journey of self-discovery, despite some turbulence provided by a wealthy blond diva (Meaghan Jette Martin). If that all sounds very familiar, it's probably because your kid has already had it playing on the living-room set 50 times or more. And maybe they won't mind seeing it at least one more time, in inferior fashion, with different faces in lead roles.
Jonas, who appears with Kevin and Nick, his two siblings from the deliriously popular Jonas Brothers band, plays Shane Gray, a rock star whose ego has grown to the size of a concert amp. As punishment for his bad-boy ways, he gets shipped off to Camp Rock, a lakeside retreat that helped launch his career. Clearly, he's not a happy camper.
Much more pleased to be there is Mitchie Torrres (Lovato), an aspiring singer who is participating in the elite camp only because her mother has been hired as its head cook. Plagued with self-esteem issues, Mitchie suppresses her substantial vocal talents and tells some white lies in order to fit in with the tritely snooty Tess Tyler (Martin) and her suck-up friends.
The "Camp Rock" plots are entirely predictable and the acting fairly woeful. It doesn't help that Joe Jonas is no Zac Efron when it comes to charisma. Lovato, at least, is a charmer, but I worried that her cheeks would hurt from forcing so many toothy smiles.
Still, "Camp Rock," with its sugary tunes, figures to be another Disney smash, partially because the kids it's geared to don't give a fig about what a cranky middle-aged critic has to say, and partially because it will be hard to miss. In a barrage of synergistic energy, the film will show up on a plethora of platforms over the coming days.
Let the frenzy begin.
CHANNEL SURFING: Television just can't get enough dancing. Tonight brings the premiere of "Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew 2" (10 p.m., MTV). The anti-"Dancing With the Stars," it's the series that "brings the streets to the stage" as groups from all over the country show off their fancy footwork. Mario Lopez returns as host. No disco-ball trophies are involved, as far as we know. ... Also premiering tonight is a new soap opera called "MVP" (11 p.m., SoapNet). It promises to go behind the scenes of a professional hockey team and delve into the lives of the players and the women they love. Expect a lot of steamy bedroom scenes and exposed flesh, but probably not a lot of actual hockey.
NOTE: The film will also air on ABC (8 p.m. Saturday) and ABC Family (8 p.m. Sunday).