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Friday, December 14, 2007

Opening this weekend: Alvin and the Chipmunks

click to enlarge alvin-1.jpg

(Photo © 2007 20th Century Fox)

The movie version of Alvin and the Chipmunks is a mediocre, but not altogether unpleasant, resurrection of the rowdy rodents of rock. Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, veteran writers of the 1990 cult TV show “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” (as well as the disastrously bad 2000 family comedy Snow Day), here find balance in a script that plays out like a kid-size VH1 "Behind the Music.” The Chipmunks (bipolar Alvin, eggheaded Simon, diabetic Theodore) are impressionable and talented child stars given everything they want, shipped on world tours, kept awake by massive doses of caffeine. They are also, we suspect, dangerously close to a life of stripping on "Letterman," getting caught in public custody battles and ending up on “The Surreal Life.” Though the thought of this updated version scared many fans and children of the 1980s, the film is partially a send-up to the kind of mass cross-promotion and market saturation it will likely (in complete irony) engender. Furthermore, this reimagining poses the all-too-likely concept that if singing chipmunks existed in the real world today (and who’s to say they won’t soon appear on YouTube?), they likely would be pursued and remixed by the likes of Timbaland.

On the human side, Atlanta’s own David Cross ("Mr. Show," "Arrested

Development") elevates this film out of otherwise uncertain depths. Whereas

Jason Lee (sporting an oddly husky voice) as Dave Seville never gives the

impression that he has mastered the art of talking to air that will later get the CGI treament, Cross relishes in it. Asking the Chipmunks to refer to him as "Uncle Ian," Cross' character epitomizes the kind of lame, un-hip record-exec who would deliver a phrase like "peace, we out" with asinine aplomb. His moments on screen are the film’s best, and makes for the possibility of useful and fun celebrity cameos in kid-pick fare, a tradition that has recently fallen quite short of the bar

the Muppet movies set decades ago.

When all is said and done, the Chipmunks did well in surviving their transfer from pure animation to ever-improving CGI integration. Of course, with kid movies, some things never change; but despite what is intimated in the trailer, all scatological humor is thankfully kept to a minimum.

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