Set sail for a 90 minute snooze with the chipmunks
BY NELL MINOW December 14, 2011 6:58PM
Aboard a cruise ship, Alvin watches fondly as his surrogate father (Jason Lee) dresses for dinner in “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.”
‘Alvin and the chipmunks:
Dave Seville Jason Lee
Zoe Jenny Slate
Ian David Cross
With the voices of:
Alvin Justin Long
Simon Matthew Gray Gubler
Theodore Jesse McCartney
20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Mike Mitchell. Written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, based on characters created by Ross Bagdasarian. Running time: 87 minutes. Rated G. Opening Friday at local theaters.
Updated: January 17, 2012 8:06AM
The third go-round with the singing chipmunks and their exasperated but forgiving father figure is a little brighter and sweeter than its predecessors. “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” tones down the slapstick and potty humor, thus meriting a family-friendly G rating.
The mischievous chipmunk trio has been enduringly popular since its Grammy-winning 1958 single “The Chipmunk Song,” written by the critters’ creator, Ross Bagdasarian. Many recordings and animated TV series and specials later, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. has continued the saga of the chipmunks with live-action films starring Jason Lee as their long-suffering human pal, Dave Seville.
Like its predecessors, the third in this updated series relies primarily on recycled pop songs, Alvin’s naughtiness, Dave’s frustration, a silly bad guy (David Cross as Ian) and a few grown-up jokes to keep the parents awake. It benefits from the welcome addition of former “Saturday Night Live” member Jenny Slate, known for her viral video and book, “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On.”
It begins as Dave, the three chipmunks, and their female counterparts, the Chipettes, board a cruise ship (intrusive product placement alert) for a much-needed vacation (cue the Go-Go’s). As usual, Alvin keeps getting into trouble, and Dave keeps apologizing for the chaos Alvin leaves behind. Their old nemesis Ian shows up, too, in a pelican costume. There’s an amusing nightclub scene when the Chipettes are challenged to a dance-off to the inescapable earworm “Party Rock.”
When a kite mishap carries the chipmunks out to sea, Dave and Ian go after them via parasail, and everyone ends up cast away on a remote island with only one inhabitant, the stranded Zoe (Slate). Yes, it’s time for Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.”
This is the best part of the movie as the chipmunks are pushed outside of their usual personas. When the cautious, bookish Simon is bit by a toxic insect, he has a temporary personality change, announcing he is a dashing French-accented daredevil. Without Simon to act as leader, Alvin has to stop being “the fun one” and be responsible for taking care of the others. Chipette Jeanette learns that she can be more than just pretty and rely on her intelligence and resourcefulness, especially after they discover hidden treasure, another Chipette is “chipnapped” and a volcano starts to erupt.
With their sped-up voices unrecognizable, top talents Justin Long, Jesse McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate are wasted as the chipmunks. The same could be said for musical numbers. Upbeat tunes by edgy performers like LMFAO, Lady Gaga and Pink are homogenized into indistinguishable rhythmic buzz. For kids, the familiarity, the silliness and Dave’s unconditional love make “Chipwrecked” appealing. For adults, the best it has to offer are nostalgia and a running time under 90 minutes.