Strictly as consumer products go, it’s difficult not to grudgingly admire the marketing savvy with which “Camp Rock” was assembled. Like “High School Musical,” it’s a painfully simple but efficient fairy tale for a generation that never heard of Frankie and Annette, blending music with teen angst about fitting in — all built around a likable protagonist, multiethnic cast and hot pop trio. Disney is giving the movie a royal sendoff — including saturation play on Disney Channel, ABC and online — and based on recent performance, there’s no reason to doubt its pixie dust.
Teenage Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato) dreams of spending the summer at Camp Rock but gets to attend only on a fluke, when her working-class mom (Maria Canals Barrera) takes a summer gig catering for the camp. Shy about her singing ability, Mitchie quickly falls in with the mean girls, but only after enjoying a Cinderella moment with pop star Shane (Joe Jonas, the middle brother), who’s essentially been sentenced to the role of camp counselor as an image-polishing exercise.
The heat surrounding the Jonas band among those wrestling with first zits notwithstanding, only Joe is more than sparingly seen in the movie. The story, rather, unfolds from Mitchie’s perspective — reflecting an obvious desire to launch the fresh-faced, big-lunged Lovato — as she juggles her parents, friendship with the uncool kids and the elaborate lie she’s concocted to impress rich-bitch tyrant Tess (Meaghan Jette Martin) and her ethnically diverse posse.
Along the way, the writing quartet (which includes onetime pop satirist Julie Brown, who also appears as a camp instructor) and director Matthew Diamond provide plenty of pit stops for dancing, songs and — in this 30th anniversary year of “Animal House” — even a modest food fight. Lessons will be learned, tears will be shed, and fun, fun, fun with be had before a raucous finale that seemingly features every damn camper gleefully singing and dancing his or her ass off.
Not everyone, of course, will swoon over the Jonas’ music or lyrics like “You’re the voice I hear inside my head,” which Shane wails in a ballad to Mitchie. Yet having created a whole new demographic called “tweens” (roughly age 9-14), Disney Channel knows the turf, zeroing in on that group with laserlike intensity via a formula that involves tapping into the aspirational qualities of slightly younger kids and their enduring penchant for catchy pop tunes that power the “American Idol” franchise.
“Camp Rock” is the kind of confection that requires copious brushing and flossing immediately afterward, but given Disney’s track record, that won’t dissuade four out of five girls with Jonas Brothers fever from sinking their teeth right in.