Stick to the animated version.
Yeah, I sat through it, this piece of schlock that masquerades around as a kid’s film. Never again.
Truth be told, Alvin and the Chipmunks is not that bad. It has its cute, cuddly moments, mainly when Theodore is on screen, but those moments are not enough to sustain a pleasant feeling throughout the movie. Admittedly, the concept of three singing, nevermind talking, chipmunks is a hard sell, but one that worked in years past. The difference is that it is much easier to sell three talking chipmunks on an animated television show, rather than a CGI/live action movie. Something gets lost in translation.
The movie follows the adventures of three talking chipmunks: Alvin, Simon, Theodore (I know you just sang that in your head.), and how they end up living with their surrogate father, Dave Seville (Jason Lee). Lee, though not the most convincing Dave, does his best to carry the movie and give it a realistic quality that lacks throughout. But his character is seriously underdeveloped, as in his romance with neighbor Claire (Cameron Richardson) which follows the typical slacker-gets-a-job-and-gets-the-girl plot line.
Yeah, yeah, so what about the ‘munks? This aspect is where the film falters. Part of the appeal of the beloved cartoon series is that there was an element of plausibility immersed in the show. Yes, the premise was and continues to remain ridiculous, but it worked, if only for the simple and genuine relationship between Dave and his “kids.” In the film, however, that relationship is continually tested, but the viewer never feels invested in the relationship partly because Dave is never fully invested. What does work, though, is that the filmmakers have given a type of origin story in which the chipmunks remain true to their television characters. Alvin is his typical mischievous self, Simon plays up his intellect, and Theodore relies on his sweet, pudgy demeanor to get away with things. Even the scene about the origin of “The Christmas Song” is well played. But that is all forgotten when the viewer is treated to an uninspired remix of “The Witch Doctor.” If this film was released as an animated feature, the heart of the movie would not be lost in trying to make these three little guys part of our CGI obsessed world.
Lastly, ever see a movie where an actor just chews up the scene to the point where you hate him just for playing the part? Meet Uncle Ian (David Cross), our film’s nemesis. Yes, the audience is not supposed to like him, but even Hannibal Lector had a quality to admire. Cross’ performance is so awful that it’s worth buying the extra large soda so you can make a bathroom run every time he is on screen.
If you have a small one that you might want to take, by all means, expose them to the Chipmunks. But, it may better to stick to the DVD of the mini-series.
Alvin and the Chipmunks is rated PG.