It was inevitable. Almost 50 years ago, the late Ross Bagdasarian Sr. used a sped-up audio track to create the Chipmunks and that pervasively wistful note of longing, “I just want a hulaaaa hoop.” Now, the opportunity to beat a dead rodent has been co-produced by Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and arrives in a feature film, Alvin and the Chipmunks. Admittedly, director Tim Hill (Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties) has enhanced his resumee with this effort, but then again, any improvement is quite the de minimus accomplishment. Indeed, certain philosophical matters come to mind while viewing the film equivalent of a cultural void. For instance, if Alvin, Simon, and Theodore now exist only as CGI-animated chipmunks, can I still manage to hit them with my vehicle? Beyond that question, it’s nearly impossible to review this flick. After all, as much as I’d have liked to, I couldn’t very well walk out of a Jason Lee film, for that’s already been done. In addition, only so many variations exist with which to complain about crude jokes and toilet humor in children’s films. While the Chipmunks are disarmingly cute and this film is less annoying than expected, absolutely nothing can redeem the horrifying moment when Theodore poops on the couch.
Simon: “It’s a raisin, Dave.”
Dave: “Prove it!”
(Simon pops Theodore’s poop into his mouth.)
I shit you not.
Jason Lee putters shamefaced through his role as Dave Seville, a rather uninspired songwriter that finds his muses in three uninvited household guests. After a few muy bueno jamming sessions, “The Christmas Song” has been regurgitated in its exact format. For whatever reason, the Chipmunks’ voices were cast to bring name recognition to the project. Thus, we have Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney), but their sped-up voices fail to register as anyone noteworthy. And, lest we get the impression that Dave is interested in these three young lads for anything other than the music, we are assured of Dave’s heterosexuality as he distractedly aims to win back the affections of his cardboard ex-girlfriend, Claire (Cameron Richardson). After the Chipmunks get Dave fired from his ad exec job, the repentant trio decide they owe it to Dave to impress skeevy music executive Ian Hawk (David Cross — oh, David). After a remarkably short amount of time, the impressionable rodents decide to ditch “Killjoy” Dave in favor of “Uncle Ian,” who expresses his love by sending them on a sellout arena tour, and the Chipmunks soon find themselves suffering from Starlets Syndrome, i.e., “exhaustion.”
The trappings of fame ain’t worth it, kiddies.
Regardless of whether the children like the movie, the filmmakers nevertheless violate the ultimate rule for audiences of children’s films: They must give something to the grownups, too. And let’s be honest, we don’t really give a rat’s ass about achieving enlightenment, but some eye-candy would be nice. The non-existent physique, receding hairline, and charismatic vacancy of Jason Lee just doesn’t do it for the typical adult female who finds herself wearily sitting in the audience. Indeed, this film has no purpose other than as a staccato 91-minute music video, which includes a generic rendition of “Funky Town” and an obligatory cover of “Witch Doctor.” Thankfully, at least, the film’s sparse use of meta references provides a much-needed vacation from the pervasive irony of recent children’s films. That said, Dave’s apartment number, 1958, just happens to be the year that “The Chipmunk Song” set this piece of crap into motion.
Clearly, the real attractions here are the computer-generated Chipmunks, for the human characters of this film are entirely lifeless. David Cross plays a corporate alter-ego of his “Arrested Development” character, and Cameron Richardson is entirely forgettable as the token love interest. For his part, Jason Lee simultaneously exaggerates and underwhelms his character with flamboyant physical gestures and movements that vaguely resemble bottom-drawer slapstick moves. His endless arm-waving must have thoroughly exhausted Lee to the point where he couldn’t event properly muster up the iconic “Alllllllllvin!” scream.
Jason Lee, have some fucking pride, man. The only reason that you even have a career is because Kevin Smith cast you in his films, and you squander these opportunities by coasting from the river of mediocrity (Chasing Amy, Mallrats, Dogma, “My Name Is Earl”) into the first circles of cinematic hell, thanks to your faceless participation in the Underdog affair. Now, you shall be damned to an eternal punishment wherein a CGI-animated chipmunk trio uses their siren falsetto to lure masses of unwary humans to their souls’ demise. Hell, I can’t even call you a sellout, because that would presuppose a certain amount of envy on the part of other actors. Not even Brian O’Halloran (Dante Hicks of Clerks) would shame himself and Smith in this way. Dante Hicks possesses far more dignity than that, for he’s probably gone the hack route and started a celebrity gossip blog or something. Whatever he’s doing, he certainly has done better than you, Jason Lee.
Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found attempting to defrost her brain at agentbedhead.com.Bringing Roadkill Back. Yeah.
Film Reviews | December 25, 2007 | Comments ()