You might think the novelty of super squeaky voices belting out pop hits would soon wear out, but producer Ross Bagdasarian Jr. has been squeezing every last penny from the concept for decades, ever since his father created the Chipmunks back in 1958.
For whatever reasons, this gimmick spawned a beloved media empire, though full-length live-action exposure to the chipper little bastards will test the endurance of about anyone even a day over the age of 6.
Not content with destroying our precious childhood memories of Underdog, Jason Lee returns to trample on another admired animated franchise, starring here as the Chipmunks' manager, guardian and main target dummy, David Seville. Good old Dave is a struggling songwriter with a day job as an adman, though he must be doing OK, since his "bachelor pad" looks like a glossy layout in Home and Garden magazine, overstuffed with flowers, candles and throw pillows. Into this fussy sanctum come three rambunctious talking CGI rodents. After their home is chopped down and made into a Christmas tree, they proceed to trash the joint and eat up all of Dave's cheese puffs and toaster waffles. Alvin, Simon and chubby Theodore are holy terrors, and just a bit creepy as Lee points out. But — gosh-dang it — these little buggers are cute, and they can sing too! After initial resistance — and a half-dozen fart and poop jokes — the human and the fluffy-tailed demons form an alliance to conquer showbiz, and they gradually form a familial bond as well. Of course along comes Ian, a evil record exec (gee, what a surprise!) out to exploit the tiny fluff-tailed wonders. He's lethargically played by the usually funny David Cross in a check-cashing exercise. Soon enough "Uncle Ian" has kidnapped the trio and turned them into a furry boy band, complete with cheesy choreography, shiny silver tracksuits and backup singers. (Though it's impossible to tell the difference between the crap that they sing for Dave and the supposedly "bad" commercial cash-in material, since both styles are equally grating.)
It's here where things get really ironic, as the movie begins railing against the wicked, soulless corporations that bleed quality from art, while at the same time being a vacuous, brazen vessel for product placement. It's hard to believe in the ills of "selling out" while watching what amounts to an extended Happy Meal commercial for the Plush dolls that are sure to accompany the flick, but that's just how shameless Alvin and the Chipmunks is, was and always will be.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.