Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel
Directed by: Betty Thomas Cast: Zachary Levi, David Cross, Jason Lee Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: PG Release Date: December 23, 2009
PLOT: After Dave (Lee) breaks most of his bones in an Alvin-related accident, the Chipmunks stay with Toby Seville (Levi). While Dave's away they take on new challenges like going to high school and facing off against new musical rivals/love interests, the Chipettes.
WHO'S IT FOR? Kids, specifically those old enough to sit through a movie but still young enough not to judge based on quality.
EXPECTATIONS: Low. The first film wasn't as bad as I expected, but my expectations were so colossally low that they almost had to be beaten. This one is a sequel, which tend to be worse than the film that precedes it.
Zachary Levi as Toby: I love Zachary Levi in Chuck. Unfortunately, I don't think he's making the transition into film very well if this is the kind of role he selects. Toby Seville is Dave's Aunt's Grandson... so I guess that makes him a second cousin? Due to the Chipmunks putting every responsible adult in their lives in the hospital, they're stuck being tended to by Toby who is not only unfazed at having to care for talking, singing, superstar chipmunks but also not really interested in it. One of the inconsistent aspects of the film, and the previous one as well, is that some people treat the Chipmunks like huge stars and other people seem unaware that's who they are. No one really seems to think OMG talking chipmunks! Toby has almost no character development, he's really there to fill in for Dave, though why the filmmakers decided Dave needed to be replaced is beyond me. He was bland; but this character's defining characteristic is that he plays video games. He's also a former high school geek and we're supposed to root for him after a silly flashback, but that doesn't make up for his lack of personality. Levi, I love you, but stick with Chuck if this is the best role you can find. Score: 2
David Cross as Ian: Cross basically re-enacts the first movie, just substituting the word "girls" for "boys". In the first film, his turn as the evil record label exec made more sense, it was a film about the Chipmunks becoming a famous pop band. This time around, the Chipettes are brought in specifically to follow the same path the boys followed in the first film. They're warned, but don't believe the Chipmunks if only because that's how this plot goes and everyone in the theater knows it. So does Cross, who could play this character blindfolded and actually gives more effort than the part requires. Certainly more than anyone writing the script put into it. I hope this paid for a nice pool. Score: 5
Jason Lee as Dave: Lee's Dave is AWOL for much of the film after Alvin manages to break most of the bones in his body. I don't know if he had a prior commitment or got dumped, but it's an unnecessary plot development. Dave may not have much personality but his replacement has zip. At least Lee screams "Alvin" well. Lee may be trying but his character does nothing in this film, so there's not much to say. Score: 3
TALKING: The Chipmunks and Chipettes are all voiced by celebrities such as Justin Long, Amy Pohler and Christina Applegate. I have no idea why. You can't tell with the sped up chipmunk voices, and though they're reasonably good actors, I can't say they added any great emotion or humor to the roles. The main feeling I got was a sense of cloying sentimentality. So congratulations guys! Enjoy those sweet, sweet paychecks. Score: 1
SIGHTS: The Chipmunks aren't terrible CGI, but they're not terribly lifelike either. Unfortunately, they don't represent their cel animated kin either, which is too bad. By a weird but kind of enjoyable turn, Brittany, Eleanor and Jeanette retain their very '80s looks from the TV series and it doesn't look out of place. I guess fashion has cycled back around. I'm going to go grab a scrunchie and be right back. Score: 4
SOUNDS: The musical choices were pretty par for the course, mostly recent Top 40 hits. The Chipettes version of "Single Ladies" looked cute in the preview but like most of the songs, it played like an American Idol version of the real thing, cut down and second rate. I can't imagine that Simon (Cowell, not the Chipmunk) would have been pleased. Score: 3
BEST SCENE: At the end, for convoluted reasons, David Cross wears a gold tube dress and tries to impersonate the Chipettes. It's horrible and yet also the most entertaining part of the film.
ENDING: There aren't really any surprises when it comes to the plot. In the end, everyone is super best friends. Remember the super-happy ending in Wayne's World? It's like that except I didn't care.
QUESTIONS: Why do studios think they can just cram this reconstituted plot down the audience's throat? How much more would it have cost to make the film more entertaining? Did anyone involved in the filmmaking process actually care about this film as anything other than a paycheck?
REWATCHABILITY: So low. I'm sorry if you have young kids who don't have taste because they may want to rewatch this film. But I'm not totally sure about that.
When I was a kid, I saw the The Chipmunk Adventure about a hundred times. I loved the songs and the boys vs. girls rivalry. The movie was probably made for a fraction of the cost of this one, even when adjusted for inflation and yet the entertainment value is so much higher. These Chipmunks are devoid of personality. Alvin is a little bit of a glory hog, Simon is a little bossy and Theodore is a little bit dim, but the traits are really watered down. They seem more concerned with being cute and hugging things out. That would be fine it they weren't so dull. When the Chipettes come into play they have even less personality. In the original film, and '80s TV series, the Chipmunks and Chipettes had a rivalry, here they're separated by what Ian says, which makes little sense. Why do they automatically listen to Ian? Hello, if I was a talking chipmunk and found another group of talking chipmunks, I'd listen to the other members of my species first. The plotting and story are really lazy, the filmmakers clearly didn't care if parents enjoyed the film or not. The first one wasn't good, but it wasn't horrible and it had some amusing moments. This time, it's just bad. If you have kids and they want a movie to watch and you don't have to be in the same room, OK. Otherwise, no.
FINAL SCORE: 2/10