Sunday 11 December 2011

From the archive: "Alvin and the Chipmunks"

Clearly inspired by the success of the no less flimsy Garfield movies, this third relaunch for creator Ross Bagdasarian's helium-voiced acapella rodents - previously a novelty pop act in the late 1960s, and animated stars of breakfast television in the early 90s - is the movie equivalent of erstwhile Internet sensation The Hampster Dance: bizarrely diverting for some length of time, but unlikely to add anything of real worth to your life in the long run. Alvin, Simon and Theodore are here computer generated critters messing up the home of struggling songwriter Jason Lee (on loan from My Name is Earl). He turns them into a best-selling boy band, only to witness what little control he has being wrenched away from him by an evil record boss (Arrested Development's David Cross) keen to do the unthinkable and turn the chipmunks into cash cows. The rotter.

The hypocrisy of it all is blatant, although the film has at least a couple of advantages as festive viewing. The chipmunks, characterised as unruly pre-teens, are clearly targeting those under-sevens who might feel left out by the relatively grown-up allusions of Enchanted, Bee Movie and Fred Claus, and Lee, perhaps the most innately likable leading man of his generation, is able to carry us through (long) stretches of script that blandly espouse family values rather than try to be in any way amusing. Otherwise, it's another illustration of just why the Chipmunks have never quite crossed over in the way the Turtles or Transformers did: the Bagdasarian estate don't seem to have realised only fleeting success can follow from farting rodent gags and squeaky (squeakier?) renditions of Pussycat Dolls songs.

(December 2007)

How wrong I was. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the third in the series, opens in cinemas nationwide from Friday.

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