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"ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED"
(2011) (Jason Lee, David Cross) (G)

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QUICK TAKE:
Family Comedy: Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Chipettes become marooned on a deserted island, and it's up to their manager and best friend Dave to rescue them.
PLOT:
The Chipmunks and the Chipettes have become singing sensations, and they and their manager/surrogate father Dave (JASON LEE) travel via cruise ship to an international awards show. Alvin (voice of JUSTIN LONG) is just as mischievous as ever, getting into all sorts of trouble by disobeying Dave. Simon (voice of MATTHEW GRAY GUBLER) is the smart, pragmatic one who tries to keep Alvin out of trouble. Theodore (voice of JESSE McCARTNEY), meanwhile, is the most child-like one of the three, who still has a penchant for overeating.

The Chipettes, meanwhile, mirror Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. Brittany (voice of CHRISTINA APPLEGATE) is flashy like Alvin and prefers high fashion and luxury accommodations. Jeanette (voice of ANNA FARIS) is the brainy one who is attracted to Simon and his intellect. Eleanor (voice of AMY POEHLER) is slightly pudgy, slightly awkward, and naturally gravitates to Theodore.

Defying Dave, Alvin constructs a makeshift hang-glider that accidentally carries the six chipmunks off the cruise ship and to a deserted island. Dave teams up with the disgraced music industry executive Ian (DAVID CROSS) to track the six critters to the island where they encounter Zoe (JENNY SLATE), a crazed castaway who became marooned there looking for a gold treasure.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
During a week in which scientists are attempting to offer concrete scientific proof of the so-called "God particle," I think these brainiacs are wasting their time. Instead, they should be studying why a Hollywood studio is throwing big bucks at the likes of Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Anna Faris, and Amy Poehler to voice a group of animated chipmunks...when their voices are electronically enhanced!!! Practically anyone - and I do mean anyone - can voice these characters, because they are going to be altered by the team of sound designers for the finished film. Why pay millions for celebrities you are never, EVER going to recognize!

Don't get me started on this. Seriously, don't get me started! Because if I get started, I am going to start my own Occupy movement. And it won't be Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Chicago or anything like that. It will be Occupy Hollywood Sound Booths! Talk about corporate chief execs and banking CEOs making naked cash grabs!

I digress. How is "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked?" Abysmal to anyone over the age of 7. Unfortunately, my daughter is 6 and she and her little friends really enjoyed it. But it's not going to stay with them. How do I know this? Because she hasn't talked about it since. It's a movie that, like its predecessor, 2009's "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeak-quel," the creativity ran out at the title.

The first 20 minutes of the film are basically a commercial for the Carnival cruise line. And it's a darn good one actually, with loving shots of the company's flagship and its ornate buffets, throbbing dance club, cool water slide, and multiple pools. Sign me up! But then, through various chipmunk-ian hijinks, all of the major players from the first two films become stranded on a remote island and have to escape it before a rumbling volcano erupts and kills them all.

The good news is that Jason Lee returns as Dave after only cameo-ing in the second film. Dave is the manager of Alvin and the Chipmunks and the recently discovered Chipettes and is escorting the singing critters on the cruise to an international awards show. Lee does as good a job as I've seen of an actor playing off essentially nothing and making you believe he is talking to animated characters. His eye lines are always perfect and he does his darndest to try and sell every scene for the kiddies and their parents. He's working here, not just picking up a paycheck. And I appreciated the effort.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story is just a mix of "Cast Away" and "Gilligan's Island" clichés with a pathetic attempt at trying to turn some kooky female castaway named Zoe (Jenny Slate) into a third-act villain by making her obsessed with some island treasure. At the same time, the contractually obligated David Cross is forced back into service as crooked music industry exec Ian, who spends the entire film trapped in an enormous bird mascot costume.

And while the film is G rated, parents may be dismayed by the film's message, which is essentially "It's OK to disobey your parents, as long as you think it's for a good reason." Alvin appears to have learned nothing from his obnoxious behavior in the first two films that landed the chipmunks in all sorts of trouble and once again is portrayed as a defiant, rebellious, badly behaved child.

There's also the matter of multiple pop songs from the '80s, '90s, and today being given the chipmunk treatment, which will require most grown-ups in the audience to seek other forms of treatment afterwards. I suggest a good massage and a fine lunch while the kiddies are back at school. You deserve a reward for sitting through this with your little one(s). I give this latest squeak-quel (and, yes, a little part of my soul just died for typing that) a 3 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed December 10, 2011 / Posted December 16, 2011


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