Alvin And The Chipmunks (U)



Family (2007)
91mins US

Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson
Director: Tim Hill
Writer(s): Jon Vitti, Will McRobb, Chris Viscardi
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Chipmunk chums Alvin, Simon and Theodore are hoarding nuts for the winter, only for their high-rise home to be chopped down as a Christmas tree. The pals secretly hitch a ride to the modest Los Angeles home of down-on-his-luck songwriter Dave Seville, and proceed to wreck the apartment. When Dave finally comes face-to-twitching nose with the three intruders, he turfs them out only to have second thoughts when he hears them sing. Thus, Dave offers the animals sanctuary if they sing his catchy yuletide offering, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)".

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LondonNet Film Review
Alvin And The Chipmunks

In the 1995 Oscar-winning Babe and its disappointing sequel Babe: Pig In The City, director George Miller employed a trio of singing mice as the farmyard's Greek chorus...

Alvin And The Chipmunks. Fox UK Film.The diminutive critters introduced each chapter of the story and, most memorably, burst into helium-voiced renditions of "Blue Moon", "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" and the toreador aria from Bizet's opera Carmen. Imagine this cute gimmick expanded into a 91-minute feature and you have Alvin And The Chipmunks, an infernal racket based on mischievous characters created by Ross Bagdasarian Sr. in the late '50s.

Following the template of his last film, Garfield 2, director Tim Hill conjures an eye-catching conflation of live action and computer-animated mayhem as his three squeaky heroes are transplanted from the countryside to the metropolis, where their distinctive warbling marks them out as the chart-topping superstars of the future. Considering the distressed state of the music scene, it's not inconceivable that slickly choreographed chipmunkery could sweep the globe. However, when Alvin, Simon and Theodore debut their new song "Witch Doctor", a hi-energy remix of Bagdasarian's 1958 ditty, it's impossible to understand any of the words, not least the gibberish chorus of "Oo ee, oo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang!" How anyone is supposed to sing along without hyperventilating is hard to fathom. Thankfully, munkified cover versions of "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter, "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc, "Mess Around" by Ray Charles and "Only You (And You Alone)" by The Platters don't stray too far from the originals.

Alvin And The Chipmunks. Fox UK Film.The festive yarn begins with Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) hoarding nuts for the winter, only for their high-rise home to be chopped down as a Christmas tree for the lobby of Jett Records. There, the chirpy pals witness down-on-his-luck musician and songwriter Dave Seville (Jason Lee) fail to impress money-grabbing record executive Ian Hawk (David Cross). "Your song, it's awful, I hate it," says Ian bluntly. "There is no sense writing songs that no one is ever, ever going to sing." The chipmunks secretly hitch a ride in a basket of muffins back to Dave's modest Los Angeles apartment, which they proceed to wreck by disgorging the contents of his food cupboards. When Dave finally comes face-to-twitching nose with his three furry intruders, he is stunned. "Squirrels can't talk!" he gasps. "Whoa genius, we're chipmunks!" retorts Simon. "Chipmunks can't talk either!" corrects Dave.

Alvin And The Chipmunks. Fox UK Film.The songwriter turfs out the animals, but has second thoughts when he hears them singing together, offering the pals sanctuary if they agree to sing his catchy yuletide offering, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" to impress Ian. His hare-brained masterstroke has the desired effect. With Ian masterminding the global marketing, Alvin, Simon and Theodore become superstars overnight and are thrust into a giddy whirl of promotion, live performances, stretched limousines and screaming fans. As chipmunk popularity soars, Dave struggles to keep his proteges' tiny claws on the ground, especially when Ian is lavishing them with compliments and expensive gifts. Eventually, Dave snaps. "If you love Uncle Ian so much and you don't think I'm watching out for you, why don't you go and live with Uncle Ian?" he rages, driving his young charges into the arms of the greedy record executive.

Ian guarantees their loyalty by poisoning the youngsters against their surrogate parent. "Behind your backs, Dave calls you the rats," he whispers as they embark on the gruelling Rabid Transit Tour, coast-to-coast concerts that push Alvin, Simon and Theodore to the brink of physical exhaustion. When the tour finally arrives in Los Angeles, Dave joins forces with his ex-girlfriend, press photographer Claire (Cameron Richardson), to save the 'munks from their demented mentor, vowing, "I've got to get my boys back but Ian's keeping me out!"

Alvin And The Chipmunks. Fox UK Film.Alvin And The Chipmunks treats its audience like fools, keeping dialogue to a minimum as the linear plot unfolds at a crawl with yawnsome predictability. Lee is reduced to screaming "Alvinnnnn!!!" into thin air as his digital co-stars take showers in the dishwasher, hoard syrup-soaked waffles under the carpet and leave small, dark round deposits on the settee. "It's a raisin," blurts Simon. "Prove it!" retorts Dave, forcing the chipmunk to nervously eat the unidentified lying object. Young viewers might giggle at the sight of one of the chipmunks noisily breaking wind in Dave's face, or the trio frenetically bouncing about a recording studio after a turbo-charged slurp of coffee, but laughs are few and far between. Cross happily embraces his role as the corporate villain of the piece while the dulcet tones of Long, Gubler and McCartney are unrecognisable after all of the tweaking.

- Jo Planter


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