They’re baaaaack. Nearly 50 years after musician and songwriter Ross Bagdasarian turned a quirky idea about a trio of singing, helium-voiced rodents into a multi-Grammy Award-winning pop cultural phenomenon, mischievous Alvin and his two chipmunk brothers, bespectacled Simon and chubby Theodore, are back, seamlessly computer generated and reinvented for a slightly less innocent age.
Dave Seville (Jason Lee) is an adman by day and a struggling songwriter in his off-hours who’s having trouble selling any of his mopey, sensitive-guy material in the contemporary pop market. Dave’s old college acquaintance Ian Hawke (Dave Cross), now an oily big-wig at Jett Records, flatly tells Dave that no one is ever going to want to sing his songs, and Dave is shown the door. Meanwhile, the annual live Christmas tree has just arrived in the lobby of Jett’s offices, along with three woodland creatures: chipmunk brothers Alvin, Simon and Theodore (voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney respectively, though their voices are so distorted it hardly matters). The boys make a quick escape by jumping into the muffin basket Dave nicked on his way out of Jett’s offices, and Dave, unaware of his stowaways, takes them home. He’s horrified to find his house is now infested with three boisterous chipmunks who turn his house upside-down and squirrel away (or is it “chipmunk away”?) waffles for the coming winter, but is soon delighted to learn that they can sing in pitch-perfect harmony. That night, after the boys have turned his sheet music into loop-the-looping paper airplanes and a towel ring into a Hula Hoop, the muse suddenly strikes, and Dave sits down at his piano. By morning, he’s written “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late),” and gives it to Alvin, Simon and Theodore to sing. Dave knows he has a massive hit on his hands, but he doesn’t count on the boys’ stage-fright; when they’re unable to sing in front of Ian, Dave is once again shown the door.
Needless to say the song is eventually recorded and, in the absence of chipmunk child labor laws, Ian pushes the boys to the point of exhaustion to make them huge international stars. By the end of the film, commitment-phobic Dave learns an important lesson about family and even gets back together with his ex (Cameron Richardson), and the boys find that happiness isn’t all about toys and material success, and that they were happier singing Dave’s songs – even though toys and tacky pop songs are exactly what the movie is pushing. The film makes a number of concessions to contemporary tastes – the boys wear hoodies instead of letter sweaters, Alvin farts in Dave's face, they redo Bagdasarian’s pre-Chipmunks’ hit “Witch Doctor” as a high-energy dance track, and all seem to share a surprising knowledge of current urban slang for forest critters -- although that Ramones-y version of “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” could have come off of 1980s Chipmunk Punk LP. leave a comment --Ken Fox