With Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate and the voices of Justin Long, Amy Poehler; Written by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger; Directed by Mike Mitchell; Rated G (nothing offensive). 87 minutes.
Did the Universe demand for another “Alvin And The Chipmunks” movie? After the first two, one would have hoped someone would have driven a stake through its heart, but no, here they are back again in ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED. For very young, undiscerning viewers this will presumably fill some time. It’s nowhere near as good as “The Muppets,” “Hugo” or “Arthur Christmas,” but for wee ones who actually want to see this, it will probably do the trick (if their sneakers with the flashing lights fail to amuse and distract them).
As for everybody else – from parents to children whose parents erroneously assume that the “G” rating stands for “good” – this is cruel and unusual punishment. The story involves Dave (Jason Lee) who goes off on a cruise with both the Chipmunks and the Chipettes (their female counterparts). For reasons we need not explore, the CGI animals end up on a desert island.
While Dave and former manager Ian (David Cross) try to find them, the chipmunks try to survive in the wild. It is at this point that they meet Zoe (Jenny Slate), a human inhabitant of the island. Believe it or not, the film then turns into a spoof of the eleven-year-old movie “Castaway,” with Zoe having a number of balls with whom she has become friends. (In “Castaway” Tom Hanks clings to sanity by talking to a volleyball he names “Wilson.”)
To discuss the story further is to give the movie far more credit than it deserves. While complications ensue, including Zoe turning into a manipulative villain who is effortlessly redeemed in a throwaway line of dialogue, it’s almost beside the point. Quite simply, the movie is about getting the chipmunks on the island and, ultimately, getting them off it again. Everything else is irrelevant.
So to talk about the acting or the arc of the characters is beside the point. The live action actors are just as cartoonish, if not more so, than the CGI chipmunks. And in spite of some recognizable people playing the chipmunks – Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney as the boys and Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate as the girls – you really can’t tell who’s who from the sped-up voices. Indeed, when Simon is infected by venom and becomes “Simone,” a suave and romantic action hero, he is voiced by Alan Tudyk instead of Gubler, not that you can tell from your theater seat.
There is no reason at all for this film except that the first two “Alvin” movies made money and, between the theatrical release and subsequently video and cable showings, the producers obviously hope this one will make money as well. That will make it profitable, but it will not make it good. With no human actors on screen for a significant portion of the running time, this may be very cost-effective. It’s the reason they call it “show business” instead of “show art.” As noted, there are a lot of wonderful family-friendly films out there this season. “Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” is not one of them.***
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.