At this point, I’ve been writing at Pajiba for nearly five years, so it’s safe to say that I’ve built up a tolerance to shitty movies and, in particular, shitty children’s movies. Normally, reviewing these movies lends me a much appreciated opportunity to vent along with the occasional discovery of a well-buried (and usually poorly marketed) gem. Yet Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked has done the unthinkable by making me just not care — although it’s nearly impossible to feel ambivalent about real-life chipmunks themselves or their CGI equivalents. Of course, farmers consider chipmunks to be vermin, as they are unruly beasts and destroyers of crops throughout North America and Asia. The Siberian variety have even spread to France where they torment young children with the twin threats of rabies and lyme disease. To put it plainly, chipmunks are not cuddly, lovable creatures. In fact, there’s currently a rat in my (detached) garage that I should fear will start singing “Whip My Tail” at any moment. Obviously, the thought has occurred to me, but such hyperbolics in response to this movie are completely unwarranted.
Chipwrecked is just not worth the effort. It’s neither a surprisingly endurable film nor an actively bad one. Even your kids will fail to develop strong feelings as well even if the cuteness of chubby little Theodore (voiced by Jesse McCartney) might keep them from jumping off board before the credits roll. As for the other Chipmunks [Alvin (Justin Long); Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler] and the Chipettes [Eleanor (Amy Poehler); Jeanette (Anna Faris); Brittany (Christina Applegate)], they fill their spaces without much distinction and the voice actors duly collect their barely earned paychecks. In other sell-out news, Jason Lee reprises the role of Dave Seville from the first movie (although he managed to largely skip out on The Squeakuel). And perhaps most notoriously, the role of smarmy record executive Ian is once again played by David Cross, who, by the way, has called the making of this movie “the most unpleasant experience I’ve ever had in my professional life.”
Buddy, you signed up for it.
Here’s the lowdown: Dave takes the Chipmunks and Chipettes with him on a cruise because, hey, why not? Certainly, he had no plans to bag a babe. Officially, Dave and his rodents are en route to the International Music Awards (where the sextuplet is scheduled to perform an entire slate of Lady Gaga music), but that’s just an excuse to set up the customary Chipmunks’ movie-ending musical extravaganza. Ian is now an ex-music exec and now works on this same ship while dressed a giant pelican, and he wears that outfit for the entire duration of the movie. As expected, Alvin quickly wreaks havoc (including making a casino jaunt with a requisite James Bond joke) during their voyage while Simon poorly works damage control, and somehow all of the vermin end up separated from the ship before washing ashore on a deserted island. Don’t worry, Dave and Ian make it to the island too because watching Ian walk around in his fucking pelican outfit is a joke that simply must be run into the ground. The script makes vague attempts at shades of Castaway and Lord of the Flies, but soon enough, spider venom, buried treasure, and volcanic activity all interface to make for one head-splitting finale.
The main problem with Chipwrecked isn’t that it’s a stupid kiddie flick; but rather, unlike the first movie (and possibly unlike the second one as well, although I’ve largely erased that one from my memory as an anti-Dutch oven defense mechanism), there is absolutely no heart to this installment. Everything revolves around getting onto and off the island. There’s no characterization to be found at all, and poor Dave Seville is no longer the uninspired musician who finds muses in his uninvited houseguests. Yes, he professes to love and care for them when, you know, he thinks that they’re dead, but it’s a token gesture and one borne out of guilt only. At this point, Dave pretty much cannot stand these fucking Chipmunks, but he is resigned to them out of habit. It’s like a twisted, seven-way marriage that is obviously dead but keeps enduring merely because someone doesn’t want to be alone, and that person is Dave. He’s mid-40s and still babysitting a few handfuls of vermin, and most of all, he’s not happy with the situation. Yet he persists because that’s what the screenwriters wanted him to do.
So instead of a true family film that would be appropriate for the holiday season, Chipwrecked is merely a series of mishaps that accidentally end up at a musically happy ending by no virtue of any of the characters’ intentions or doings. Granted, Alvin does have a few moments when he does the obligatory walk in Dave’s shoes to figure out what a pain in the ass that he’s been for years. Yet that sentiment only lasts a few seconds and serves only to drive the plot along. While Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked may be perfectly tolerable on DVD when one can comfortably leave the room for a several minutes at a time, it’s not much of a theater release. But hey, at least it’s not in 3-D.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.