Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (review)

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Hug a Rodent

When a paralyzed Marine takes part in a daring biological experiment on another planet, he encounters a remarkable alien civilization–

No, wait: that’s Avatar. This movie is about singing cartoon rodents.

Crippling injuries abound, however: Poor Jason Lee, as Dave Seville, the owner/manager/guardian of the little pop star hamsters, is just about dispatched as Squeakquel opens, when Alvin, Simon, and Theodore — rocking out to a Van Halen cover in concert — cause a horrendously Three Stooges-esque accident that lands Dave in a full body cast.

Well, actually, it’s just Alvin who causes it, which causes Dave to scream, “Alllll-viiiin!!” But you knew that already.
It’s kind of a shame that Lee (Jersey Girl, Dreamcatcher) is just about absent from this second outing of the rebooted musical mouse trio, because it was his charm that made the first movie work as well as it did, and made it as ridiculously adorable as it was. Lee clearly believed so profoundly in his invisible costars (or so they would have been to the actor on the set, anyway) that he made it work for us, too. His replacement here — Zachary Levi, from TV’s Chuck, as Dave’s slacker cousin Toby — is fine, but the spin his character takes to distinguish him from Dave is that he’s just not interested in the little critters, and would rather play with his video games, which removes from the center of the movie the surprisingly appealing relationship between man and ’munk. Toby’s just not the kind of guy a little chipmunk like Theodore can cuddle up with when a nightmare wakes him in the middle of the night. Alas, poor Theodore!

Instead, this time out, the chipmunks are sent home from their concert tour as punishment for nearly killing Dave, and worse, are sent to school. And so it all becomes High School Musical with singing squirrels as the boys — Alvin is voiced by Justin Long (Planet 51, Funny People), Simon by Matthew Gray Gubler (The Great Buck Howard, RV), and Theodore by Jesse McCartney (Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!) — get caught up in an interschool competition to raise money for the academic music programs. And they have some new competition themselves from the Chipettes, singing girl chipmunks — Brittany, voiced by Christina Applegate (Surviving Christmas, Wonderland); Jeanette, voiced by Anna Faris (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Observe and Report); and Eleanor, voiced by Amy Poehler (Monsters vs. Aliens, Baby Mama) — sponsored by the evil Jett Records manager they shamed in the last movie (David Cross: Year One, Kung Fu Panda).

It’s not all quite as absurdly endearing as the first film was, but it’s still pretty darn cute, and almost entirely inoffensive, certainly as kids’ movies go. (I don’t generally use the word inoffensive to connote a positive, but it works here.) The chipmunks at least get appropriate “romantic” interests in members of their own species — I confess to being a bit mystified by all the young human girls screaming and swooning over Alvin, Simon, and Theordore: sure, they’re cute, but not like that. But there’s not much reality we’re meant to take from a movie in which Alvin can play high school football and not only not get squashed but become the MVP.

This isn’t going to deeply please anyone over the age of 10, but not much coming out of Hollywood does these days. What is sorta special about Squeakquel is that it isn’t blitheringly stupid, just gently silly. Evil David Cross gets his comeuppance… again. There’s hardly any product placement at all… and the most prominent of it is for Toys for Tots, word of which actually deserves to be spread far and wide. There’s only one instance of crotch-injury humor, which is practically a record low for movies of this type, and only one fart joke… which actually works in context as something other than a prompt to make the just-potty-trained laugh out loud.

Things could be worse.

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Patti H.
Patti H.
Wed, Dec 23, 2009 7:50am

I confess to being a bit mystified by all the young human girls screaming and swooning over Alvin, Simon, and Theordore: sure, they’re cute, but not like that.

Well, there is precedence from 1961’s “The Alvin Show:”

Plus there was an episode in which Alvin had a crush on a spoiled rich girl, who didn’t like him till she realized he was the Alvin…

Yeah, definitely dating myself here.

Cori Ann
Cori Ann
Wed, Dec 23, 2009 11:58am

I will admit to buying the first one when it came out on DVD, purely in a fit of curiosity, and keeping it because I figure that one day my daughter will enjoy it. I surprised myself by liking it quite a bit, but had no interest in the “Squeakquel” (which I hadn’t heard anything about until we saw a billboard for it while driving to my in-laws’ the weekend before Thanksgiving) until I saw a preview and realized that the Chipettes were in it. Suddenly visions of The Chipmunk Adventure swam through my head and I found myself excited. I am glad to hear that it is not too terrible! I’ll probably wait until it hits DVD still, but I feel a little bit better knowing it will inevitably end up on my shelf!

Sat, Jan 02, 2010 1:34pm

The first was a somewhat guilty pleasure, and this one was no different. However, there were a couple too many incongruencies that made it a little less enjoyable. Example: how come Ian can just barge into a high school and not get thrown out by security? Do tiny toy helmets and bikes really hurt that much on impact? How come six chipmunks can coordinate a full choreography in about five seconds?

Still, this attempt at Melrose Place with rodents is kind of cute, and its one fart/poopy joke is actually funny (a trait the first movie had as well) and makes an inkling of sense in context, unlike many jokes of the genre. The crotch joke was a bit too much, but I won’t deny I had a few hearty laughs, especially in the early going (Alvin imitating Dave is priceless, and Simon shrieking “eagle!!!” every time he sees one cracks me up).

The weakest part was the scene with the eagle. Not convincing in the slightest. Still, a nice little family movie to enjoy along with the kids, or – if you’re like me – even by yourself. Just like the first one, actually.

Sat, Jan 02, 2010 10:51pm

Plus there was an episode in which Alvin had a crush on a spoiled rich girl, who didn’t like him till she realized he was the Alvin…

I’m pretty sure that if a talking chipmunk introduced themselves to me as Alvin, the last thing on earth that would occur to me is that they might not be the Alvin.