In theory, it's a good idea for a family film. Take Dave Seville's (aka songwriter Ross Bagdasarian Sr.) loveable novelty act, those swell, squeaky voiced woodland creatures, and marry them to the post-modern world of CGI. Toss in a recognizable name (in this case, My Name is Earl's Jason Lee
) in the human role, ratchet up the current pop culture references (lots of video game nods and hip-hop rodent rump-shakin') and, hypothetically, you've got a no miss holiday treat.
So where, exactly, did the makers of the nauseating Alvin and the Chipmunks go wrong? How did something that seemed like a slam dunk turn into one of the biggest piles of 2007 junk? Maybe it's the lack of cleverness? A myriad of missed opportunities? The blatant stupidity of the entire narrative? You'd think that Jon Vitti (ex-Simpsons scribe), Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi (both of Pete and Pete fame) could come up with something fresher, more original, than this rabid rags-to-riches tale. Even worse, director Tim Hill
(Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties
) offers no situational context to make the otherwise surreal circumstances crackle with comic possibilities. Article continues below
Plotwise, Lee is a haggard ad man who longs to be a professional song writer. His efforts are constantly thwarted by high-placed record industry pal and old school chum Ian (a wasted David Cross). One day, a group of singing, dancing, and hi-jinxing chipmunks slip into Dave's home and make a mess. When confronted, their ability to harmonize wows the desperate tunesmith. He lets them stay in his house on one condition -- they must help him sell his songs. At first, the idea seems daffy. But when Ian hears the high pitched wail of these fun loving forest creatures, he plots their rise to the top -- as well as a means of stealing them away from his buddy Dave.
Bereft of anything remotely resembling entertainment value, and tainted by the crass post-modern need to turn every possible cinematic pro into a toothless, watered-down, focus-group con, Alvin and the Chipmunks is a horrendous waste of energy. It fails to find any of the staying power Bagdasarian brought to the silly studio experiment, and falsely hopes the film can get by on semi-successful computer graphics. Sadly, the implied eye candy here is sour at best. The chipmunks look busy and unfocused, lacking the detail and definition we expect from a cartoon creation. They're calculatedly cute, but that's about it.
While limiting itself to only one fart and poop joke in its mercifully brief running time, we still get lots of worn out wise cracking, leftover catchphrases and buzzwords resembling the European idea of popularity (meaning about a decade old). Unlike his solid and sincere work as the voice of Disney's Underdog, Lee is lost here. Stumbling around, whiplashing back and forth between mild-mannered and manic, we never get a true idea of who Dave Seville really is. Instead, he's a straight man for a bunch of conveniently contemporary wildlife. Cross is also aimlessly bad, spouting material mandated by a paycheck, not a test of the acerbic comedian's true talent. With the Geena Davis Junioresque Cameron Richardson
as the necessary babe, and a mandatory MTV-style finish, this is preplanned pandering at its most callous.
While it's hard to defend the continued affection for Bagdasarian's crooning critters (right, owners of Chipmunk Punk?), the goofy concept deserves better than this pointless update. Toddlers with still developing brainpans may appreciate the bright colors and objects in motion. All others will be waiting for a vet to arrive and put these scat rats down.