The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Alvin and the Chipmunks

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Alvin And The Chipmunks

Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Nothing conjures up the holiday spirit like rodents.

The now-CGI trio makes it to the big screen: myopic Simon, zaftig Theodore and instigator Alvin. Uprooted from their forest (their pine tree is cut down with them in it) to the lobby of a corporate building during the Christmas holiday, the furry chatterboxes, complete with the ability to speak and knowledge of modern human society, attempt to adapt to their new world.

The building is headquarters for a large record label, and the critters secretly leave with down and out songwriter Dave Seville (Jason Lee) and succeed in staying hidden for awhile in his house. Once discovered, Dave wants to throw them out, but they can sing in harmony so he composes a Christmas song for them instead. When Dave attempts to show off their talent, they choke in performance, and become simply a box full of scared mammals (similar to the operatic frog in the old Warner Bros. cartoon).

Dave’s got a failed relationship with neighbor Claire (Cameron Richardson) whom he still covets. Seems Dave has a hard time committing to anything. She’s a photographer, handy for access to music events, important for little else here. Nice hair, though. The Chipmunks succeed in making a disaster out of the pair’s quiet dinner, and Dave’s really, really upset, which warrants a patented “AL-VIN!!!” out of him.

There are at least two scatological references in keeping with the current trend toward gross bodily functions that pass for humor. That the Chipmunks are mischievous goes without saying. The rodents are into making messes, embarrassing their host and screwing up any organized system they come into contact with. They are every kid’s dream of self-indulgent slobs, overeaters, and video game-playing slackers.

Wanting to make everything right again, the trio shows up at the lavish digs of greedy record executive, Ian Hawk, (David Cross), who finally witnesses a vocal performance, and immediately sees dollar signs. Wooing the boys away from Dave and into the world of hip hop mega venues and rigid world tour dates, Chipmunk fever takes off. Tired of Dave’s tough love, they defect into a life of pop star excess, led by the odious Ian, falsely indulgent and with an agenda as large as his mansion. This defection is all based on a misunderstanding (isn’t everything)?

The all-falsetto rodent group is strangely popular in the hip-hop world. Wait a minute, could it be that Alvin wears a hood? That’s it! Instant street cred; my bad for doubting. You’ll hear The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) as well as Witch Doctor (OO EE OO AH AH). They also do a version of the Lipps, Inc. standard, Funkytown. No comment.

Can Dave get his boys back from exploitation-ville and once again to the fatherly care of Dave Seville? Maybe it’s dawning on the confused commitment-phobe that the boys do make up his family of sorts. Hey, at least they’re warm blooded, ya know?

Jason Lee has got the Dave voice down and just the right amount of exasperation in it to be at least partially effective. Unfortunately the role calls for him to act like he’s been lobotomized; slow reflexes, utterly bewildered at every turn, mostly ineffective at showing emotion.

Cameron Richardson as Claire is completely wasted as a plot device; no meaningful dialogue or scene ever happens between her and Dave. Meant to be the “mom” in completing the semi-bestial nuclear family, she is interchangeable with just about any other young Hollywood female. That’s how much thought went into her role. Nice hair, though.

Only David Cross, as slimy record executive Ian Hawk hits the right note in his smiling serpentine manner. The bald head, the power eyewear, the homely countenance made acceptable by success and financial prosperity, push this character into the believable realm, an area absolutely off limits to everyone else in the film.

Chipmunk voices are provided by Jesse McCartney, (Theodore), Matthew Gray Gubler (Simon) and Justin Long (Alvin), all of them too young to remember their vintage predecessors.

Director Tim Hill (Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties) has understandably utilized most of his budget toward CGI effects, leaving little in the way of character or plot development. There’s no chemistry between Dave and Claire, almost none between Dave and the Chipmunks. I’m told that our three vocalists are visually far superior to Hill’s Garfield image, so that’s something (albeit small) to appreciate in an otherwise forgettable effort.

This should make a good babysitter DVD. The kiddies will entertain themselves with the exploits of Alvin and Co. for the 90 minute duration, giving mom and dad some peace before being harassed for the three dolls that the merchandising department will surely spring on consumers.

Some things never change. Alvin’s still in red with a big A on his chest. Simon wears the glasses; Theodore is fat. Evidently, progress does not always mean improvement. Those of us who remember the original cartoon version of The Chipmunks will shake our heads and realize that we already had the best of these characters before man walked on the moon.