Plot: The chipmunks get the CGI/live-action treatment, in this update. Songwriter Dave Seville (Jason Lee) is down on his luck, until he takes in three singing chipmunks. Led by Alvin, they get into constant trouble as they become pop sensations.
Who’s it for: Adults will hopefully get to steer clear. Only briefly does the film tap into the history of this franchise.
Expectations: I was a little nervous, but then again I have seen every episode of the ’80s animated TV show, and the film “The Chipmunk Adventure” was my first solo experience in the movie theater.
Jason Lee as Dave Seville: Lee has been able to play the likeable, simple Earl on the sitcom “My Name is Earl” to perfection. Yet, all that talent is lost when he embodies Dave. He’s stuck with no one believing him that he has singing chipmunks, and for some reason, he doesn’t want a family, though it’s never explained. Perhaps all of Lee’s powers do lie inside Earl’s moustache.
David Cross as Ian: Ian is the evil record producer who is reduced to occasional jive talking. Anyone who is a fan of “Mr. Show” or “Arrested Development” cannot afford to witness this role. It’s a sell-out.
Justin Long as Alvin: Long voices Alvin, but you can’t really tell. The key to the chipmunks is the high-pitched voices and the combination of brains (Simon), gluttony (Theodore) and ego (Alvin). Otherwise there really isn’t any humor here.
Talking: So, you have a film about talking chipmunks in the real world and you never comment on the fact that no one seems that surprised or wonders if other animals can talk? You just ignore this elephant in the room? Most of the jokes in the film could have come from this topic.
Sights and sounds: It’s slightly clever to show how “The Chipmunk Song” (about Christmas) gets created, but then they play it over and over again. And to make it “cool,” they make that and “Witch Doctor” into R&B tunes … doesn’t work.
There is a chance I have simply outgrown Alvin, Simon and Theodore. But I can still recognize a quality film and this isn’t it. The message for kids here is that over-indulgence of consumerism is bad. We’re stuck watching the chipmunks go overboard for the entire second half of the film, which doesn’t lend to laughs. After all, isn’t the reason this film exists in the first place because of consumerism? Reinventing “Alvin and the Chipmunks” is just a chance for the film studio to cash in on a franchise. These rodents should have stayed in the past.
Overall Grade: 3