ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL
*** (out of 5)
December 23, 2009
Zachary Levi as TOBY
David Cross as IAN
Jason Lee as ADVAE
Justin Long as ALVIN
Matthew Gray Gubler as SIMON
Jesse McCartney as THEODORE
Amy Poehler as ELANOR
Anna Faris as JEANETTE
Christina Applegate as BRITTANY
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Betty Thomas
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Two years ago, I was one of the few critics in this great country who dared to say something politically incorrect: I liked “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” While most of the film writers out there were bemoaning its overly cute sentiment, I was proud to say that I found the movie adorable and surprisingly fun.
A lot of my affection for this new computer-generated “Alvin and the Chipmunks” series comes from the fact that I saw it with my kids, then ages six and four. After all, this is the target audience for a film like this, not some stuffy cinemaphile waxing poetic about the French New Wave movement.
Likewise, “The Squeakquel” is cut from the same cloth. My kids are two years older, ages eight and six, and they were as excited to see this movie as I was to see “Avatar” the week before. and let’s be honest… the movie totally played to their demographic.
In this film, Alvin and his brothers Simon and Theodore are enjoying a successful road tour. However, when their handler and surrogate father Dave (Jason Lee) is injured, they have to cut the tour short and go back to L.A. while he heals. Dave puts his Aunt Jackie (Katherine Joosten) in charge, but Alvin accidentally sends her wheelchair down a flight of stairs.
Stepping in for Dave and Jackie is Dave’s gaming-obsessed, ne’er do well cousin Toby (Zachary Levi) to run the show. The Chipmunks are sent to high school to get a proper education while Dave’s in traction. There, they learn some new lessons about popularity, bullies and young love when Ian Hawke (David Cross) introduces them to his new act, the Chipettes.
Like any sequel – or squeakquel, tee hee – the story seems a bit forced at times. The original film focused more on the Chipmunks as they learned how to handle their fame as rock stars. This movie finds the boys in a school dealing with many of the same challenges that are faced by the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon stars.
“The Squeakquel” isn’t as epic as the original. It’s more of a replay of the 80s animated “Alvin and the Chipmunks” series, playing out high school life lessons with some cheesy messages. Think of this as “High School Musical” with tails and buck teeth.
Zachary Levi is the weak link in the film as the stand-in for Jason Lee. He just doesn’t have the same charisma on screen, and his character doesn’t have much to do. Fortunately, he takes a back seat to the antics of Alvin, Simon and Theodore.
Most notable in this film is the introduction of the Chipettes, who were a staple of the animated series from the 1980s. These female singing chipmunks are high on the cute factor, especially with their rendition of Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies.” I know it’s a cheap shot, but I thought they were cute.
But the real scene stealer, as he was in the first movie, is David Cross as the smarmy record producer. Cross, who is known more for his acerbic and inappropriate comedy, is hilarious in the role that reeks of desperation.
Sure, the movie is forced at times, and it’s not as good as the first. But for a family holiday movie, it works. The bottom line is that there’s a lot of grown up and parents that will roll their eyes at this movie. However, it is very cute if you can get in the spirit of the movie, and kids are going to love it. I have a soft spot for the Chipmunks. I always have, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.