The holiday tentpole season usually guarantees at least one big offering for the kids and their parents to enjoy. Some years, you get a Disney musical or a Harry Potter related title to indulge in. Other years you get another sequel to Alvin And The Chipmunks and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That’s the year we’re in right now, and let’s just say your choice at the box office this weekend is your typical “fish in a barrel” scenario, as Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip brings nothing new or exciting to the table.
After three films of misadventure, Dave (Jason Lee) is settled into a serious relationship that seems to be going well. Well enough that it sounds like he’s going to pop the question to his doctor girlfriend (Kimberly Wiliams-Paisley,) dooming The Chipmunks (Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney) to spend the rest of their lives with a hellish step-brother (Josh Green.) With sabotage on their minds, the would-be enemies team up to stop their parents from becoming a lawfully wedded couple. That is, if they can evade a maniacal air-marshal (Tony Hale) who has a beef with the Chipmunks.
86 minutes doesn’t feel long when you’re watching a movie worth your time, but when that film happens to be Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip, that time span crossed over into an eternity. With every botched joke, infantile plea for relevance, and pop culture name check assaulting your very ears, it’s as if the pain will never end. Surprisingly, there are jokes that manage to land where they should – a whopping three of them in the entirety of this film. There’s even one musical number that could have worked marvelously – except for the fact that you still had to hear the Chipmunks singing said number. All throughout this film’s run time, it trips over itself just as it manages to gain a little bit of footing.
What’s worse, this film doesn’t even feel like a film. For as basic and time worn of a story Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip tries to tell, it doesn’t really tell its audience anything. The tent pegs are there – mischievous hijinks #4, song #6, wrapped up with touching finale #24 – but there’s no connective tissue to say that this is a story you need to follow sequentially. Alternatively, you could wait until the movie comes to Blu Ray, watch select scenes, and return it back to Redbox the same night you picked it up. Even the characters are, for the most part, unneeded in the film’s course of events. You could have removed Bella Thorne’s barely there pop star character, as well as the equally absent Chippettes, and you’d have enough money and screen time to beef up the would-be plot. There’s time for a “pizza toots” gag, or a Redfoo cameo, but there isn’t room for an actual plot.
Yet despite its horrific flaws, and its cloying attempts at telling a threadbare “daddy wasn’t there” story with one of its human protagonists, Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip isn’t a complete disaster. It’s still pretty unwatchable, but through some dark magic it possesses you could see the points where this film could have been better. In fact, if this wasn’t so dead set on conquering the kids market, the entire Alvin And The Chipmunks reboot could have been a pretty good satire on pop stardom, mixed in with some loosely risqué humor for the older audience that knows the characters best. A PG-13 version of this series could have been something passable, but instead the powers that be decided to aim for the younglings and produce a subpar kids’ flick.
Watching Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip is like visiting a childhood friend after several decades of absence… only said friend has no sense of style or taste, and just barely reminds you of the friend you once had. It’s not the worst film out there, but it’s still pretty sad to watch – especially when the hysterical Tony Hale is forced to crank his freak factor up to 11 in order to breathe life into its shambling corpse. You can tell by the end of this installment that there are probably plans for at least one more outing in the Alvin And The Chipmunks saga. Let’s just hope it involves a hungry dog, slow motion, and well timed opera music.