Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Review

There’s a rather perfect moment in the 2009 film Zombieland when Bill Murray lists starring in Garfield (a live action film version of Jim Davis’ ever popular fat cat) as a last regret. If you’ve ever seen Garfield then you know just how brilliant the line is, and you can’t help but wonder if Jason Lee doesn’t wish he’d heard that joke before making the first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. Or then again, maybe Lee figured it out on his own and that explains Zachary Levi’s role as a substitute of sorts. Whatever the case, there’s precious little praise to be heaped upon Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. The timing is off (by almost 27 years) and the very premise is little more than a vehicle for pop culture jokes (which is really all the cartoon series was in the final seasons) said in high squeaky voices.

If you look back on the later seasons of the cartoon, you’ll see that the Alvin movies, most notably The Squeakquel, actually stay quite faithful in a few ways. For one, the new film features the oddly sexualized counterpart to Alvin, Simon and Theodore, known as the Chippettes. As before, each Chippette seems custom made for one of the Chipmunks, and have similar neuroses (diva syndrome, smart but insecure, and small, pudgy cuteness). What’s odd, however, is how the movie seems to play up sex appeal and downplay that Alvin is actually a hideously egotistical and selfish bastard (at least in the cartoons). He has an ego here, but for some reason they toned that down in favor of just making him a ladies man. So basically, if you grew up with the chipmunks and now have kids that you want to share them with, know this: these really aren’t the same chipmunks. The worst qualities of the chipmunks have been changed in favor of sex appeal and music.

The premise for introducing the sexed up Chippettes is as follows: the Chipmunks are now in high school and are first in line to headline a local contest to win funds for the school’s arts program, until Ian (David Cross), the deposed talent agent who lost his job after mistreating the Chipmunks in the first film, shows up with the Chippettes in tow, their ears filled with promises of impending fame and harsh words about the Chipmunks. The two trios start as rivals but slowly come to appreciate one another and, as if to make the theme of family all the more glaring, the Chipmunks experience their own bits of brotherly strife as Alvin takes up with the jocks leaving his two brothers to shoulder all the responsibility for their act.

The CGI is decent enough and you just have to accept it because it’s not as if they attempted to create realistic chipmunks. The animals you see prancing and singing about look quite cartoonish, but it fits. There’s no pretense of reality in the matter. Come on, they’re talking chipmunks.

If Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel deserves credit for anything it’s for the rather decent list of cast members, both for voice and character acting. Justin Long (Alvin), Matthew Gray Gubler of Criminal Minds (Simon), and Jesse McCartney (Theodore) comprise the manly munks while Amy Poehler (Eleanor), Anna Faris (Jeanette), and Christina Applegate (Brittany) lend their voices to the feminine side. Besides Lee, Levi and Cross, Wendie Malick appears as the high school’s principal (and a closeted Chipmunks fan).

The honest truth is that the movie has just as much substance as the cartoon did: barely any at all. Every scene and situation has little objective other than letting the chipmunks spout pop jargon like “what’s the dealio?” as the human co-stars look on as if a talking chipmunk is just about the greatest thing anyone’s ever seen, when really it’s not, is it? How could it be if three more can just arrive out of nowhere? Somewhere out there, two radioactive chipmunks are getting busy in a tree trunk and producing litter after litter of chatty rodents. It’s enough to warrant the use of Agent Orange, or anything that will help us put an end to that reproductive cycle.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The combo pack includes the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy versions of the film. The more basic extra features in the set include an in-film pop-up trivia track, a 50 years retrospective on the history of the Chipmunks, and a “Meet the Chipettes” featurette. There’s a fairly interesting behind the scenes featurette detailing how stuffed animal stand-ins were used to accustom the actors to interacting with CGI characters who are inserted in post-production, with another mock featurette with the cast and crew talking about how they wish they had “Stuffies” (the stuffed animal stand-ins) of their own. Perhaps the lamest featurette on the Blu-ray, and maybe on any release I’ve seen thus far, is the function to take screenshots from certain scenes and compile them in photo albums. The appeal? There isn’t any. The rest of the set’s featurettes are all music-oriented with a look at the bands who make appearances in the film, a collection of the film’s musical moments, music videos with sing-along options, learning how to dance with the film’s choreographer, and parody of VH1’s “Behind the Music” titled “Behind the Squeaking”. None of them are exceptionally memorable, though parents will find the sing-along music videos and the musical scene compilation to be good distractions for the kiddies.

"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" is on sale March 30, 2010 and is rated PG. Children & Family, Comedy. Directed by Betty Thomas. Written by Jon Vitti and Jonathan Abel & Glenn Berger. Starring Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate, David Cross, Jason Lee, Jesse McCartney, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Zachary Levi.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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