Out of morbid curiosity, and the fact that Fox sent me the DVD to review, I popped the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie into my DVD player for a perusal this morning. It was everything I wanted, only more. Or not.
As a child, I grew up watching the cartoon show, and, despite the CGI-animated chipmunks and Jason Lee once again selling out to family audiences, I had to see the movie. Okay, "had to see" may be a bit strong, but I definitely wanted to see just how much Fox messed a childhood classic up. This retelling has the three chipmunks, now computerized rather than animated, moving in with struggling songwriter Dave and developing a popular Christmas song. They go on to fame and popularity, but at what price?
Alvin and the Chipmunks is decent enough, if uninspired. The movie has enough goofy antics to appeal to young audiences, as the chipmunks run amok in Dave's house. Aside from visual gags, though, there isn't much to the movie at all. Once the film switches gears and focuses on the chipmunks as rock stars, the wheels pretty much fall out from under the bus.
Directed by Tim Hill, Alvin and the Chipmunks is clunky at times. After the initial introduction scenes that shows Dave as struggling in his current profession, the movie suddenly switches gears to keep things moving. Instead of focusing on the Chipmunks' rise to fame, Hill grants that fame to them instantly. Unfortunately, once they become famous, there is nowhere for the film to go but down, and down it goes. The movie fails to develop any interesting sub stories, such as the relationship between Dave and Claire.
The real problem with Alvin and the Chipmunks is that is never tries to be funny. After all, the movie is about three high-pitched chipmunks who can talk and sing. Why not capitalize on that and have some awkward interactions with humans? Why not keep the film focused on Dave getting the chipmunks to behave? Why not let the chipmunks have an adventure, or deal with some kind of bigger situation? Alvin and the Chipmunks goes the standard, dull and safest route, never trying to do anything particularly fun or memorable.
For little kids, Alvin and the Chipmunks is a harmless little film with some goofy moments, but for the rest of us, this movie could have been a lot more entertaining with some subtle tweaks to the screenplay. It's not the disaster I expected it to be, but it could have been a lot better.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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