Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
What It Is
At last, in the third movie, the Alvin (speedy-voiced by Justin Long) and the Chipmunks are established pop stars, as are the Chipettes. No longer struggling just to “put on a show,” now they’re reaping the fruits of their stardom, that is, taking a cruise ship to get to the International Music Awards, where they might even perform alongside some of the oh-so-trendy artists they cover habitually — Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, maybe Beyonce. En route, they wreak havoc on the ship, drive Dave (Jason Lee) “crazy,” and oh yes, accidentally leave the ship altogether, landing on a tropical island, where they find trouble and a newfound appreciation for one another.
The island shenanigans in Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked are mostly inspired by those you’ve seen in other movies about castaways, from Robinson Crusoe and King Kong to Lost and that music video Destiny’s Child made for “Survivor” (and yes, the Chipettes make time to sing the song’s chorus, as mournfully as their little voices might manage).
At first the chipmunks are stranded without Dave, which leads Alvin, of all chipmunks, to feel responsible for his siblings’ welfare: he stops “acting like a child” (ever Dave’s complaint) and begins making plans, for shelter and — when a volcano threatens to destroy the island — escape.
This as Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), usually big-brotherly, is bitten by a spider whose venom makes him behave uncharacteristically. That is, he flirts overtly with his bespectacled chipette counterpart Jeanette (Anna Faris), adopts a French accent (voiced by Alan Tudyk), and calls himself “Simone.”
He’s encouraged to act outrageously by another castaway they discover on the island, Zoe (Jenny Slate). Also bitten by spiders, she appears to be quite “crazy,” and her newfound companions frequently roll their eyes or exchange hoo-boy! glances. (She keeps a whole set of balls with faces — a golf ball, a football, a baseball — to make cheap fun of Tom Hanks’ buddy “Spalding,” from Cast Away.) That Zoe is also obsessively looking for secret buried treasure on the island makes her dementia seem that much more pathetic and obnoxious.
Dave eventually makes his way to the island as well, with Ian (David Cross) in tow. They argue over how best to be in a longterm relationship with chipmunks — whether it means being a loving parent or a greedy manager — as they make their way through the jungle.
Why It’s Fun
The animation is serviceable, the plot less so. And the chipmunky song covers have definitely worn out their welcome.
Like most animated family movies, this one features plenty of gags not aimed at the kids, apparent distractions for parents who might feel beset by all the high-pitched trilling. Usually, these are brief asides, as when Alvin, perilously floating away on a kite, cracks, “I can see Russia from here!” (a Sarah Palin joke: she’s now definitively “lamestream”). Or again, a chipmunk desperate for food grabs hold of a mango and won’t let go, hissing, “My precious!” for some viewers, this echo of Lord of the Rings will be funny, for others, it will slide right by.
Who’s Going To Love It
It could be that fans of the first two chipmunks movies are eagerly awaiting this one, but it’s also likely everyone’s reached their limit. This installment offers the same uninteresting animation, broad villainy by Ian (here first working as pelican mascot on the ship, and when cast away, stuck wearing the costume because he has nothing on underneath), and noise level as the previous movies, with little else that’s new or close to delightful.
What To Be Aware Of
Product placement alert: the chipmunks and Dave begin their adventure on Carnival Cruise Lines, a logo seen more than once.
On board the ship, passengers attend a few parties, where they drink and are served drinks on trays, including Pina coladas.
Also on board the ship, the Chipettes engage in a dance-off with three over-tanned, loud-mouthed and mini-skirted Jersey Shore-style girls, who lose badly and embarrassingly. It’s not precisely G-material.
As always, Alvin is cast as a rebellious child, annoying his “dad,” Dave, and inspiring his siblings to commit various sorts of mayhem. He might be cute, but he’s a lousy role model (a lesson he learns himself in this movie).
One of these annoying episodes has Alvin in an on-board casino (specifically disobeying Dave), where he flirts rather creepily with a voluptuous fellow gambler (and reminds you of how fraught the stardom of little boys and girls singing pop “love songs” can be).
As well, Simone’s dancing and flirting with Jeanette turns a little more “adult” than their earlier encounters: there’s nothing fresh or unseemly, but it’s plain he’s more stereotypically “seductive” than before (think: Pepe le Pew).
One of the arguments between Dave and Alvin concerns a pocket knife, which Alvin first hides from Dave, then — after he’s learned a lesson, of course — uses to save everyone. The joke is that the knife is huge compared to the chipmunk, yet he wields it adeptly when necessary.
Again, a few too many fat jokes with regard to Theodore (Jesse McCartney), whose fondness for donuts and other treats makes him seem thoughtless and greedy, and sometimes self-conscious.
2 out of 10
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Director: Mike Mitchell
Cast: Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate
Studio: 20th Century Fox
US Premiere: December 16, 2011
UK Premiere: December 16, 2011