The 2007 “Alvin and the Chipmunks” wasn’t a great movie, but it also wasn’t terrible, which actually makes it the perfect candidate for a sequel, since there is room for improvement. (The fact that it grossed $217 million didn’t hurt, either.) Fox should have considered themselves lucky that the movie was such a hit in spite of its shortcomings; instead, it appears that they thought that they put too much effort into it the first time around, because the most clever thing about “Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” is the title.
After a near-fatal accident lands Dave Seville (Jason Lee) in traction – and luckily for him, off screen for much of the movie – he orders the Chipmunks to enroll in school and live a normal life. When yet another near-fatal accident leaves their aunt Jackie in traction, the boys wind up under the care of Dave’s slacker cousin Toby (Zachary Levi), who does nothing but play video games all day. At school, the boys have to suffer the hazing of the football players, but Alvin (voiced by Justin Long) soon wins them over, though his relationship with his brothers suffers for it. Meanwhile, the boys’ former label boss Ian (David Cross), who now squats in the label’s basement, discovers a group of female singing chipmunks, and hatches a plan to make them all rich while sticking it to his former clients at the same time.
Not much original thought takes place here. The subplot involving the importance of sticking up for your family feels like a discarded After School Special, while the two accidents that landed Dave and aunt Jackie in the hospital are just ridiculous. (I’m pretty sure someone in a wheelchair would never position herself with her back to a flight of stairs.) They also included the hoary device that is the all-county singing contest, which the school must win in order to save its music program. Before the all-county contest, though, is the contest that will decide who will represent the chipmunks’ school, which Alvin misses because he’s celebrating the football team’s win earlier in the day. You know, because high schools play their football games in the middle of the day. Ugh.
And yet, that part of the story is rather well constructed compared to the B story of Ian exacting his revenge. He begins the movie in tatters, but soon is wearing suits and owns an iPhone before anyone’s even seen the chipettes (who are admittedly very cute) perform. And how many times can he break into a model condo and pretend it’s his in order to impress the chipettes before his cover is blown? David Cross wrote an amusing piece on his blog about his reasons for taking the role of Ian – he wanted to buy a cottage in upstate New York, but the seller refused to accept Cross’ credibility as a form of payment – but he is surely regretting that decision now that it involves poorly choreographed shots to the groin.
Kids will probably love “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” but that’s because they haven’t seen enough movies to know any better. CGI can only take a movie so far, and while they get rather impressive facial expressions from the chippies, it doesn’t really matter when they’re surrounded by a parade of clichés. Parents, please, skip this, stay home with your kids and show them “Up” again instead.
This originally ran December 22, 2009 on Bullz-Eye.com.