The newest Alvin and the Chipmunks movie represents the continuing, disturbing trend of Hollywood mining basically every children’s property from the eighties and earlier, repackaging them for “modern” audiences. In a way, it’s inevitable. Financially speaking, it’s a sounder idea to take a previously-existing, already well-known property and work from there. Parents are more likely to take kids to an Alvin and the Chipmunks than a Hop solely on the grounds that Alvin’s a name the parents know, and possibly grew up with the same as I did.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is, therefore, not a movie meant for people my age without kids. As a kid’s movie, though, it’s actually reasonably solid. Kids will be entertained, no question, and parents won’t try to claw their eardrums out like they’re being force fed The Princess and the Goblin, Clockwork Orange-style.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Director: Mike Mitchell
Release Date: December 16, 2011
The Chipmunks and the Chipettes, accompanied by the eternally-beleaguered Dave (Jason Lee, a very long way from Chasing Amy), enjoy a cruise ship vacation on their way to be honored at the International Music Awards. Hijinks are had. Ian (David Cross), antagonist from the past two movies, shows up as an employee of the ship, making sure the Chipmunks stay in line. Of course, since you can read the title, the resident chipmunk rascal, Alvin (Justin Long), gets the other chipmunks lost ashore and stranded on a deserted island, where even more hijinks ensue. There’s buried treasure, an active volcano, and moral lessons. The human actors waffle between, “Ok, I’m having a good time for something my kids will like,” and “Oh god, I was on Arrested Development, and I played goddamned Allen Ginsberg.”
In terms of being a piece of entertainment that adults will have to sit through, Chipwrecked is largely inoffensive. Assuming you don’t tear your hair out at the notion of Chipmunk-ified pop songs, the music is decent, if occasionally weirdly-dated. What six year old knows “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child, anyhow? If you can deal with that, and suffer through some of the more dated jokes (there’s a Charlie Sheen reference that probably would have been funnier if the man had OD’ed on coke the way we all hoped he would), Chipwrecked is pretty standard fare.
Kids will no doubt love the silly antics and music of the furry little CGI creatures. They’ll learn lessons on how you need to be true to yourself, not succumbing to the labels other people put on you. Don’t be so crazy that you’re completely out of control, but don’t be so straight-laced that you never have any fun ever. Your parents will always love you, no matter what trouble you get yourself into. There’s even some encouraging messages for girls, saying that being “the smart one” doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be pretty, and vice versa. There’s absolutely nothing offensive going on here, other than maybe the camera work. The whole movie looks like it could be shot for television, but none of you were going into this flick expecting Tree of Life-esque visuals.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked isn’t a Pixar-level masterpiece, effortlessly blending children’s appeal with adult themes and interesting characters, but it’s good for the kids. It may be a sad state of affairs when the notion that something was merely inoffensive winds up being a boon, but, again, not everyone can be Pixar or Aardman.