(by Dustin Putman
2007's "Alvin and the Chipmunks" featured cute CG-created creatures interacting with live-action people and surroundings, slapstick humor and fart jokes, and a hypocritical storyline that frowned upon the ugliness of mass-market corporations, product placement and overconsumption even as the film itself and the over-produced music within were examples of all three. Naturally, the movie made a mint in spite of its distasteful elements, racking up more than $200-million at the domestic box office. The inevitable sequel, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," doubles the amount of chipmunks on display, features twice as much (and better) music, keeps the juvenile bathroom humor intact, and isn't quite as obnoxious in its contradictory mixed messages. Unfortunately, it is just as lazy from a conceptual standpoint, dealing in a plot as tired as it is shamelessly derivative and a script that could turn stomachs with the amount of worthless, uninspired, outdated pop-cultural references thrown at the viewer. Article continues below
As the film starts, leader Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), brainy Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and timid Theodore (Jesse McCartney) are pop star rodents, the first of their kind. Human parent Dave Seville (Jason Lee) wants them to have a more normal life for a while and plans to enroll them in public high school, but before he can bring them home he is the victim of a freak accident that leaves him stuck in a full body cast at the hospital. Wheelchair-bound Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten) comes to stay with them, but is also harmed before she has even left the airport. That leave's Jackie's directionless, video game-obsessed adult son Toby (Zachary Levi) to move into Dave's house and take on the duty of caring for the chipmunks. As Alvin, Simon and Theodore adapt to school for the first time, they agree to help out the school's faltering music program by entering a music competition. Their rivals: sister "Chipettes" Brittany (voiced by Christina Applegate), Jeanette (Anna Faris) and Eleanor (Amy Poehler), fresh off the bus from the forest and also new to the school. Their goal is to be the female equivalent of idols Alvin, Simon and Theodore, but they have been taken under the wings of shady former record producer Ian (David Cross), looking to get his old job back at Jett Records.
Directed on autopilot by Betty Thomas (2006's "John Tucker Must Die"), "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" is about what one would expect who has seen the first picture. Aimed squarely at kids—if you are an adult with nostalgic memories of the 1980s cartoon series, it would be best to rewatch that, instead—the movie is full of the prerequisite music, flatulence, and slapstick that kids will go wild over. Is it more than just junk food for the single-digit set? No. The storytelling is rote and shoddy, the writing is beyond moldy (there are tired dialogue references to all the usual suspects: "Taxi Driver," "Apocalypse Now," "The Silence of the Lambs," and "Titanic"), and certain plot elements are decidedly skeevy. Chipmunks or not, there is something alarmingly creepy about Ian luring unassuming teens Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor to stay with him at his spacious Los Angeles pad—a place, it should be mentioned, that he doesn't own and he has broken into.
Screenwriters John Vitti (2007's "The Simpsons Movie") and partners Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger (2009's "Monsters vs. Aliens") show little interest in exploring the potential satire that might come with little chipmunks going to high school alongside large homosapien teenagers. In their skewed view of high school, classes barely exist, no one studies or has tests, all the girls are wild for Alvin, Simon and Theodore (hints of bestiality are best left overlooked), and all the guys are one-note bullies who don't like these furry woodland animals stealing their thunder on campus. The gradual friendship between the brothers and Toby, who starts to finally grow up, learn responsibility, and reconnect with teacher Julie (Anjelah Johnson), a girl from his own high school days, is fairly sweet in comparison to the film's over-the-top silliness. Some of the song performances, including Katy Perry's "Hot 'N Cold" and Beyonce's "Single Ladies," are also entertaining in and of themselves, hurt only by the rampant clichés and predictability around them.
Having apparently agreed to only return if he could shoot all his scenes in a day or two, Jason Lee (2006's "Clerks II") quite literally cashes a paycheck as Dave, the chipmunks' makeshift father figure who is out of commission for the better part of the running time. Zachary Levi (2006's "Big Momma's House 2") takes over for Lee and is surprisingly likable as Toby even when the character isn't completely reliable. The voice cast of the six chipmunks and chipettes is a savvy marketing gimmick and nothing more; none of their voices are recognizable once they have gone through the digital post-production audio process that makes them sound like record players turned to high speed. With that said, as a character, the meek, chubby, and adorable Theodore is so irresistible that he should have his own movie. By comparison, Alvin's a bore.
"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" has an amusing, pun-worthy title, and that is about as far as the wit has gone in the production of a family film that is throwaway tripe most of the time, pandering relentlessly to a certain demographic without offering much in the way of worthwhile messages or morals. Would it have hurt director Betty Thomas to bring some imagination to the proceedings, or perhaps a little comic inspiration? Apparently so. Non-discriminating little kids will squeal with delight, but don't expect them to learn anything other than the phrases "Dutch oven" and "pole-dancing."