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More Roadkill, Less Squish

By Agent Bedhead | Film Reviews | December 28, 2009 | Comments ()


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If Alvin and the Chipmunks was, as I stated in 2007, "inevitable," then its $217 million domestic gross ($360 million worldwide) firmly established that a sequel (which I refuse to refer to by its "proper" name) was as unavoidable as catching rigor mortis from tap dancing in heavy traffic. In this second feature film, the three rodents of doom -- Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) -- are back to trip the light fantastic upon our own rotting corpses. This time around, though, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. is not merely content to drag his father's creations into CGI hell but also enlists the Chipettes (created by Janice Karman) to up the annoyance factor. Parents will be relieved to know that, in the sequel, nobody eats anyone else's poop, but there is a fetching dutch oven joke and plenty of butt references to feed those with bodily function fetishes. However, the undeniable "zip" of the Chipmunks' frenetic rise to fame has been muted in this sequel, which revolves around the boys' assimilation to daily teenage life and all its trivial tribulations. The first movie's sole strong point, energy, has entirely dissipated for this sequel, and the only thing that I truly find interesting here are the dramatics involved with a morphing cast.

Well, well... it seems that Jason Lee, mysteriously, does not fully reprise his role as Dave Seville for this sequel. At the very least, Lee has decided -- through some combination of scheduling conflicts, animosity towards co-star David Cross for the "empty void" remark, or just good old-fashioned hipster guilt -- to merely pull the minimum contractually obligated effort here. In the first few minutes of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, the scriptwriters virtually erase Dave Seville from the story. Through a few strokes of the pen, an errant chipmunk stunt incapacitates Dave, who spends the rest of the movie in traction. As much as I hate it when critics describe a performance as "phoned in," it's all too true here, for Dave's post-accident involvement in the film is limited to a few phone calls to check in upon his roadkill sons. Inexplicably, Dave also decides that the boys have been missing out on a normal childhood, so he puts the kibosh on their musical touring and enlists his slacker cousin, Toby (Zachary Levi), to make sure that Alvin, Simon, and Theodore get to school on a daily basis. Of course, when furry little brats grow accustomed to a life of fame and relative fortune, an ordinary life doesn't sound all that exciting, so the boys do everything they can (even hiding inside the toilet tank at home) to escape the drudgery of high school. Then, the boys discover the opposite sex.

Meanwhile, we've got the double-edged return of Cross, who has not only has earned his "sell-out" badge but, thanks to this sequel, now has "I Heart Allllvin!" irrevocably tattooed to his ass. Cross comes in loud and proud with invisible middle fingers blazing towards his critics, and there's something to be said for that, athough I'm not sure whether that's good or bad. (Hey, the guy needs to pay for the mortgage on that charming little upstate New York getaway, which probably sucks right about now. Keep on shovelling that snow, dude.) Cross's skeevy ex-music exec, Ian Hawk, seeks revenge for the humiliation he suffered at the end of the first movie, and the Chipettes seem like a good weapon for knocking the Chipmunks from the top of the music charts. So, now there are six squeaky voices to endure, and Cross' villainous antics are probably the only semi-enjoyable aspect of this whole sequel. Of course, he'll probably be back for the inescapable third helping too.

Now, the youngest kids in the audience will probably enjoy this sequel, but anyone else will likely wonder why the script contains nearly no story at all. Instead of paying decent writers to elaborate upon the nonexistent plot, the sequel decided to invest its dollars in a throwaway manner. To be more specific, the hiring of actual comediennes for the voices of the Chipettes -- sexy Brittany (Christina Applegate), brainy Eleanor (Amy Poehler), and token fattie Jeanette (Anna Faris) -- was an asinine decision. Speeding up these actresses' voices makes them entirely unrecognizable, so there's no need to rate the voice work here because it all sounds the same. Presumably, these usually reliable ladies had something to offer, but any characterization that could have potentially come through in the Chipettes' voices is entirely lost. Further, the Chipettes, with gyrations that are a bit too enthusiastic and an appalling lack of clothing in numerous scenes, are a lot more sexualized than the average CGI creature. Yes, these are just rodents, but they're anthropomorphized rodents, and the assumption is that both the Chipmunks and Chipettes wear clothing. Anything less is unacceptable. Even worse, when the film isn't otherwise occupied working up to a contrived battle-of-the-bands showdown finale, the audience is stuck watching Alvin putting the moves on the ladies. This is a beyond painful experience, and, trust me, the obligatory Taxi Driver reference ("You talkin' to me?") doesn't play too well in a squeaky, sped-up rodent voice. Then again, if Alvin wasn't doing DeNiro, he'd be doing Pacino's Scarface "Say hello to my lil' fren" line, which probably would come across as much too pervy in a flirtation scenario. Small blessings, folks.

Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.



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