Mark Reviews Movies

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Tim Hill

Cast: Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, the voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney

MPAA Rating:  (for some mild rude humor)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 12/14/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

Those squeaky-voiced, anthropomorphic chipmunks are the latest in a long line of childhood favorites to be taken to town, back in the alley, and butchered by Hollywood. When Alvin and the Chipmunks isn't lazy and cynical, it's depressing, but the movie is always soul-numbing. Devoid of wit and charm, the movie settles for obvious jokes and an even more obvious storyline. This is allegedly a kids' movie, because it has CG critters singing songs and teaches about the importance of family.

I'm not of the mind to think that a movie that has—and I quote the movie here—"creepy, unnatural, and somewhat evil" CG characters singing at a perverted pitch learning about the pitfalls of the music industry is necessarily one kids are going to be thrilled to experience. That's why I don't make movies, let alone market them, though; I am, apparently, just not that savvy. Still, it's here in its hypocritical, "the music industry is evil; long live the music industry" form, and my eyes are still aching from rolling so much while watching it.

Those wide-eyed chipmunks are in the forest harmonizing a cappella to that Daniel Powter song "Bad Day" (a title appropriate for watching this) while packing away nuts for the winter. Their evergreen tree is cut down and trucked to a record company office in Los Angeles for holiday decoration. Meanwhile, Dave Seville (Jason Lee) is running late for a meeting at the same record company. He happens to run into his ex-girlfriend Claire (Cameron Richardson), who promptly fills us in on what we need to know about Dave: He's always late and a commitment-phobe. Thanks, Claire; see you later on for the lame rekindling-the-relationship scenes.

Anyway, Dave meets with his old college buddy Ian (David Cross, who, I learned during a screening full of kids, makes children cry), who runs the record company, and plays him a depressing song (a parody of that Death Cab for Cutie song "I Will Follow You into the Dark," which might provide the single chuckle in this debacle). Ian tells Dave he'll never get anyone to sing his songs, but, of course, the chipmunks follow Dave home. He writes songs that no one will sing; they sing songs for room and board. It's a perfect match.

The chipmunks, by the way, are Alvin (voice of Justin Long), "the awesome one," Simon (voice of Matthew Gray Gubler), "the smart one," and Theodore (voice of Jesse McCartney). We're supposed to fill in "the fat one" after Theodore is introduced, because that's how it is. The chipmunks have lived in the woods their entire lives, but they speak English. That, I'll buy. They also have a vast knowledge of things like popular culture and music, cheese balls, and credit ratings. That, I might buy in a different movie, but this one grates too quickly.

In a different movie, also, a moment in which Alvin reveals that he knows how to dispose of a corpse would have been randomly, morbidly funny, but this one can't even get that joke to work. I will give the movie some credit for only containing two fart jokes and one eating-your-own poop joke, but that's all I'm giving it. Otherwise, the script spews out pop-culture references, a supposedly nostalgic redo of "The Chipmunk Song" (you know, the one with the hula-hoop?), and a bunch of remixes of songs sung in that eardrum-piercing engineered falsetto.

The plot follows the chipmunks rise to fame. They become overnight sensations with the hula-hoop song. They have a falling out with Dave after trying to get him to reunite with Claire, who thinks the whole "chipmunks ruining my life" is a story he makes up but somehow doesn't make the connection when a trio of chipmunks becomes Billboard favorites. Dave also doesn't like using the term "family," so when he tells a random woman at the grocery store that some days he just wants to take his three "boys," put them in a box, and leave them in the park, she just doesn't get his plight.

The chipmunks go live with Ian, who gives them the plush life. Ian exhausts them during tour after tour (coffee is the solution) with Chipmunk groupies looking disturbingly lustfully at them. They become despondent (there really might as well be heavy drugs involved in this claptrap plot), and it all culminates in a climactic, pratfall-laden chase with Ian's goons and an anticlimactic solution to the whole thing. The whole production looks and feels slapdash, hastily assembled and cheaply produced.

Just so you don't think, what with my bleeding eardrum reference and non-response to the movie's assertion that the chipmunks seem "somewhat evil," that I inherently hate these characters, I grew up in the '80s and watched Alvin, Simon, and Theodore in the cartoons. With the lifeless, agonizing Alvin and the Chipmunks, that's officially the end of my time with them.  Unless, heaven forbid, they make a sequel.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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