Alvin, Simon and Theodore have been a part of American culture for nearly half a century. They’ve covered just about every genre of popular music, from the country stylings of Garth Brooks to the top of the pop charts with songs from Madonna and Michael Jackson. I’m not sure how many times the little guys have been reinvented, but the music has always been at the heart of their adventures, and this latest retelling sticks to that tradition.
There’s a little bit of something for everyone. Folks who grew up listening to The Chipmunks will be delighted by the return of classic songs like “Christmas Don’t Be Late” and “Witch Doctor”, both of which are cleverly woven into the plot. Youngsters who have never met the characters before (which shouldn’t be surprising since they haven’t been in theaters in over 20 years) will be excited and entertained by all the slapstick antics. Everyone else in between can enjoy the charming script and holiday-appropriate story about what’s really important in life. Pay no attention to those pathetic looking hip-hip posters that Fox is flashing everywhere; the movie isn’t that ridiculous.
This film isn’t the first for the trio, but it is easily their best, getting back to where it all began: a down on his luck musician and three singing chipmunks. Dave Seville (played by Jason Lee who, I’m sad to say, is the weakest acorn of the bunch) is just about to abandon his career as a song writer when he crosses paths with orphaned baby chipmunk siblings. To his surprise and good fortune, they just happen to be amazing singers and dancers.
Inspired, Dave brings them into his house, never imagining the massive levels of havoc that such little creatures are capable of wreaking. And yet, despite their unintentionally destructive ways, they do have a knack for music. In no time Dave’s songs and their voices begin sweeping the world. But, despite their musical partnership, the four begin to reach the inescapable reality that they’re becoming a family.
If the story ended there it would be a bit too schmaltzy, so the movie takes a page from the real world of child music celebrities to fill out the second act. Without regret or apology it takes a swipe at a music industry known for exploiting young performers as the Chipmunks find themselves lured away from Dave by a record company interested only in their ability to generate major amounts of cash.
Focused on glamour and greed, the studio markets the Chipmunk brand to frothing fans who wouldn’t recognize good music if they heard it. Over-worked, under-loved, and forced to sing ridiculous songs, the boys become victims of a frenzied industry bent on milking every last dollar out of them, no matter the expense or damage to the boys. Fortunately for the little guys, they have a father figure who loves them and manages to pull them back before their lives are destroyed. If only Britney Spear’s parents had been as loving as ol’ David Seville.
Alvin and the Chipmunks is wonderfully fun, even if it is a little creepy to hear Alvin singing the words to “Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me”. If you love The Chipmunks, this is a great new chapter to add to your memories; and if you’ve never really gotten to know them before, this movie is a perfect place to start.