Alvin And The Chipmunks

Alvin And The Chipmunks


Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

A tree is chopped down in the forest and taken to the lobby of a record company building. Lurking within its branches are a trio of chatty chipmunks. Meanwhile, in an upstairs boardroom, David Seville (Jason Lee) is having his latest composition rejected by company executive Ian (David Cross).

Dave's life is about to change when the chipmunks stowaway into his home and reveal their own musical talents.

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Alvin and the Chipmunks were the alter-ego of Ross Bagdasarian Sr, who created a number of novelty records, starting in 1958. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) promptly became a yuletide staple selling 4.5 million copies. The Chipmunk singers had the gimmick of singing in a comic high pitch courtesy of speeding up the playback on the vocal. Pinky and Perky were doing the same thing on the BBC from 1957 onwards. Unlike their porcine compatriots, Alvin and the Chipmunks spawned an animated cartoon series The Alvin Show which ran from 1961 to 1962 and the gang got a makeover two decades on, with the Alvin And The Chipmunks cartoon running from 1983 until 1990.

Alvin is the chipmunk sporting the letter A on his outfit is the somewhat impetuous leader of the pack with Simon the brains of the outfit and Theodore is the cute one with the food preoccupation.

Their big screen outing is a live-action movie with our three heroes depicted through the magic of Computer Generated Imagery in similar fashion to the Garfield movies. Lee is the human foil for the chipmunk antics. David is a failing songwriter cum advertising exec. Who is having no luck at all until he is inspired to write a song for his unexpected houseguests.

Enter his unscrupulous Uncle Ian, who attempts to woo the chipmunks over to the commercial dark side of the record industry with the trappings of pop diva celebrity.

Yes, this is the wish fulfillment version of the Britney Spears' story. If only Britney had seen this it might have all been so different. All right, so Ian stops way short of offering the chipmunks cocaine – but that's the mindset.

Alvin and the Chipmunks have taken $177 million at the US box office compared that to the $19.2 million take for Atonement. One suspects the popularity is due to the Christmassy nature of the flick and two generations' worth of nostalgic Americans dragging their own children along.

Jason Lee is fairly bland - a long way from his work in Kevin Smith films and his own My Name Is Earl series. The three BeeGees-on-helium rodents are voiced almost indistinguishably by Justin Long, Jesse McCartney and Criminal Minds' nerd, Matthew Gray Gubler. Stand-up comic Cross gets the juiciest part (and the best gag as the end credits run) as oily record exec Ian.

The CGI chipmunks are good enough to make you forget you are watching pixels, and kudos to the physical effects team that really give the critters a presence in the real world. Alvin and crew were not familiar to me before coming to the States, when thinking chipmunks I tend towards the rodent nemesis of Donald Duck or the genuine article which looks like the bastard offspring of a hamster and a squirrel. The film has redesigned the characters to be closer to but a still a long way from the genuine article.

As kiddy movies go I'd have to say this was fairly average, bland and inoffensive. For the adult audience there are a few funny moments mostly revolving around chipmunk mayhem in Dave's bachelor pad. Dave gets an under-written romantic sub plot with cute-as-a-button Cameron Richardson, which never really gathers steam - although this is maybe just as well as it would only induce yawns in all age groups. The songs are as appalling as only children's songs can be. They will be stuck in your head for weeks but the kids will eat them up.

The moral of the story about corporate greed and that getting everything you want might not necessarily be a good thing is sound and appropriate to leave as a resonance in little minds. A throwaway gag involving Bruce Willis' trade mark Die Hard line is fortunately left hanging, but we do get the inevitable wind-breaking joke.

My token seven-year-old, who is sporting a fearsome eye wound and probably in some discomfort at the moment, sat entranced through the agreeable 90-minute runtime and opined that "it was really cool". He sang along with the end credits - but I failed to see that spark of something that really lit his candle and I suspect he thought the whole was a bit beneath him (he's moving on).

Reviewed on: 07 Jan 2008
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Alvin and the gang try to make it big in the pop industry.
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Director: Tim Hill

Writer: Jon Vitti, Will McRobb, Chris Viscardi, Jon Vitti, Ross Bagdasarian

Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, Jane Lynch, voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney

Year: 2007

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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