Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
What It Is
Having conquered the pop music industry in their first movie, the Chipmunks in The Squeakquel go to high school. This plot is advanced by Dave (Jason Lee), who believes they need “a normal life” after all the previous hubbub. Problem number one: Dave breaks just about every bone in his body during the first scene, when Alvin causes a stage accident. Dave thus remains in traction in Paris—mostly absent from the movie except by phone calls—while the “boys” head back to L.A. Here their caretaker is Toby (Zac Levi, who plays Chuck on NBC), a videogame aficionado who spends most of his time with eyes glazed and thumbs in motion. Though he has flashbacks to his own miserable high school experiences (bullied, afraid, alone), Toby is so distracted that he sends the Chipmunks off each morning without much in the way of guidance.
At school, Alvin (voiced by Justin Long) is tapped by the letter-jacketed jocks to play on the football team, while Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) feel abandoned. A second plot emerges when Ian (David Cross), the bad manager from the last movie, discovers a new act, the Chipettes, whom he hopes to promote into superstardom. More like body types than actual characters—short Eleanor (Amy Poehler), bespectacled Jeanette (Anna Faris), and Alvin’s-very-own-mirror-image Brittany (Christina Applegate)—the girls are set up as romantic interests for the Chipmunks. They also perform with an unsettling mix of fuzzy cuteness and sexy sass. All this, plus a football game and a high school singing contest, lead back to where the Chipmunks started. That is, they re-learn their lesson from the first movie: “All for one and one for three.”
Why It’s Fun
Depending on your tolerance for high-pitched speed-talking, the Chipmunks have always (since Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. created them way back in 1958) provided amusing and even clever satire—of sibling dynamics, the music business, popular culture, even single-dadness. This latest film is neither clever nor satirical, offering instead broad physical comedy, fart jokes and pratfalls, mistaken identities and wide-eyed mugging for the camera.
If the hues are bright—the Chipmunks’ primary-colored sweaters are here supplemented by the Chipettes’ pinks and paler shades—the animation remains flat. The action tends to repeat the first films: the kiddies interact with kitchen appliances, argue while they’re supposed to be sleeping, and seek reassurance from their so-called caretaker (Toby is at least as childish as his charges, and not as endearing). The high school situations are typical of the genre, meaning that the students rarely go to class and spend lots of time in the cafeteria and bathrooms. When it turns out Alvin’s new friends are bullies, it takes him a few more scenes than most seven-year-old viewers to see what’s wrong here. It’s way too late in the movie when he finally makes up with his much, much nicer and very forgiving brothers.
Who’s Going To Love It
Fans of 2007’s Alvin and the Chipmunks might find something to like in this next installment, as the plot is virtually identical. The Chipettes only repeat what happened already to the boys: they sing, they fall for Ian’s self-serving lies, they end up in a cage, they break out and find fame and fortune. For another thing, the Chipmunks are still singing oldies like “Stayin’ Alive” and “Shake Your Groove Thing.” That said, the Chipettes are more inclined to newer material, like Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” and Alicia Keyes’ “No One.”
What To Be Aware Of
Both Dave’s first-scene accident and a second one that lands his aunt in another hospital lead to people in casts and neck braces: played for unoriginal laughs, they’re slapsticky and loud. Alvin makes some references to other, violent, decidedly adult-oriented movies (Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, and The Silence of the Lambs). Ian behaves as obnoxiously as in the first film, picking on the big-eyelashed girl chipmunks.
At the high school, the principal, Dr. Rubin (Wendie Malick), embarrasses herself because she’s a closet Chipmunks fan (even the Chipmunks roll their eyes at her tattoo). And Simon becomes the target of lots of abuse in high school, suffering "swirlies" (his head dunked in a toilet bowl) and tossed into garbage cans. And poor Theodore, in search of late-night comfort, gets caught under the covers when Toby farts. While Alvin flirts a little oddly with one of his human girl fans (kissing her finger like a hand as she sighs), the female chipmunks’ performance style is downright creepy, inspiring teenaged human boys to cheer when they sway their torsos and thrust their hips like Beyoncé while singing "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)."
2 out of 10
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
Director: Betty Thomas
Cast: Justin Long, Jason Lee, Christina Applegate, David Cross, Wendie Malick
Studio: 20th Century Fox
US Premiere: December 23, 2009
UK Premiere: December 21, 2009