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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Copyright Fox 2000 2015
Copyright Fox 2000 2015

About five minutes after it began, the long-suffering Dave (Jason Lee, looking tired and oh so over this) comes home to find that the irrepressable little singing chipmunks in the midst of a wild party with a half-pipe set up in the back-yard and LMFAO’s Redfoo working the turntables as DJ. Two-thirds of the dear little creatures experience flatulence, which middle chipmunk Theodore (the hungry, chunky one) describes as “pizza toots.” Sigh. Later on, when one of the chipmunks is hiding inside a character’s clothes as he goes through TSA, pee and poop come out the character’s pant leg. And another character gets pooped on by a bird. Yes, this is that movie. It’s so proud of its potty humor that most of it is featured in the trailer.

Once again our little scamps create chaos and destruction wherever they go. Dave wails, “AAAAAAAAlvin!” Then he scolds them. Then he forgives them. Rinse and repeat.

Dave has two developments in his life, and it is the task of the Chipmunks to create as many complications and catastrophes as possible to impede both of them. First, there is the release of a new album he produced from Taylor Swift-style pop artist Ashley (Bella Thorne), at a big, splashy event in Miami. Second, there is a new woman in Dave’s life. Her name is Shira (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), she is a heart surgeon (but so adorably ditzy that she keeps forgetting that her stethoscope is still around her neck), and she has a son named Miles (Josh Green, a welcome bright spot we hope to see in a better movie soon). When the chipmunks discover an engagement ring just before Dave and Shira are about to leave for Miami, they decide to hide the ring and, when that doesn’t work, they decide to go to Miami to prevent Dave and Shira from getting engaged. At this point, their relationship with Miles is one of outright hostility, but he shares the goal of keeping Dave and Shira apart, so they set off for Miami together.

After various hijinks, they are put on the no-fly list by air marshall Benson (Tony Hale, slumming and looking glum about it) who makes it his personal vendetta to hunt them down as they make their way to Miami, finding (duh) that they and Miles kinda like each other.  This road trip, I mean road chip, provides opportunities for musical numbers. The choreography by Richmond and Anthony Talauega is joyously inventive.  Unfortunately, the “singing” is just the same sped-up buzzy drone sound that Dave Seville (Ross Bagdasarian) came up with for a novelty Christmas record back in 1958.

Parents should know that this movie includes potty humor and slapstick peril and violence. There are some issues of fears of parental abandonment and actual parental abandonment.

Family discussion: Why did Miles lie about his father? Why didn’t Miles want to like Dave and the chipmunks? Which is your favorite chipmunk and why?

If you like this, try: the earlier chipmunk movies and the “Garfield” movies

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Based on a television show Comedy Family Issues Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel Talking animals

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Posted on December 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm

The third in the series about the singing chipmunks and their exasperated but perpetually forgiving human father is a little brighter and sweeter than its predecessors. It tones down the slapstick and potty humor, meriting a family-friendly G rating.

The mischievous chipmunk trio singing pop songs in high, squeaky voices have been enduringly popular since their Grammy-winning 1958 single “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” the one where Alvin wants a huuuula hoooooooop. Songwriter Ross Bagdasarian used early audiotape technology to find the right speed – slow enough to be intelligible but fast enough for a helium-like sound to give the harmonies some buoyancy. Many recordings and an animated television series later, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. has continued the saga of the chipmunks with live action movies starring Jason Lee as their long-suffering human father, Dave Seville.

Like the previous films, the third in the series relies primarily on recycled pop songs, Alvin’s naughtiness, Dave’s frustration, a silly bad guy (David Cross as Ian), and a couple of grown-up jokes (James Bond and the double rainbow YouTube hit) to keep the parents awake. It benefits from the welcome addition of former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jenny Slate, best known for her viral video and book, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.”

It begins as Dave, the three original 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 on the ship, too, in a pelican costume. There’s an amusing nightclub scene on the ship 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, 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 now 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 “the pretty one” and rely on her intelligence and resourcefulness, especially after they discover hidden treasure, another Chipette is chip-napped, and a volcano starts to erupt.

Top voice talents Justin Long, Jesse McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, and Christina Applegate are wasted as the chipmunks, their sped-up voices unrecognizable. 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 even when the chipmunks get into trouble make it appealing. For adults, the best it has to offer are nostalgia and a running time under 90 minutes.

(more…)

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Animation Based on a television show Comedy Fantasy Musical Series/Sequel Talking animals

Simon, Theodore, and….Alvin: “Christmas Don’t Be Late”

Posted on December 13, 2011 at 8:00 am

As the latest Chipmunks movie opens up this week, we remember how it all got started, with the Grammy-winning 1958 song, “Christmas Don’t Be Late:”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=917SpFHHUU0&feature=related

The singing chipmunks were created by songwriter Ross Bagdasarian, who had appeared in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Rear Window” (as the piano player across the courtyard, playing one of his own compositions) and had some success as the co-writer of the Rosemary Clooney hit, “Come On-a My House” and writer/performer of the novelty song, “The Witch Doctor.”  He came up with the idea of recording songs at high speeds to make the voices sound amusingly squeaky.  The 1958 song “Christmas Don’t Be Late” was his first chipmunks recording and he played Dave and did all the voices, naming the three chipmunks after record executives.  Later recordings used women’s voices.  His son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., is now responsible for bringing Alvin, Simon, Theodore and their long-suffering manager Dave to a new generation.

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