Half-hearted return of the chipmunks

Dec. 19, 2007, midnight | By Ya Zhou | 13 years ago

"Alvin and the Chipmunks" jumps weakly onto the big screen

Since its creation in 1958, the beloved music group Alvin and the Chipmunks has made its mark on the music industry, the TV industry and finally now, the film industry. While the group's transition from music to TV was well-received, transforming the characters onto the big screen took more effort than was exhibited. Director Tim Hill's rendition of "Alvin and the Chipmunks" relies too heavily on the chipmunks' "cuteness," leaving too much of the plot unexplained and too many of the human characters underdeveloped.

The film begins with Alvin, Simon, Theodore (voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney respectively) and the rest of their adorably chit-chatty chipmunk family cheerfully singing and storing nuts for the winter. Suddenly, the trio finds themselves and their home — an evergreen Christmas tree — uprooted and placed in the middle of a corporate building, where they meet aspiring but failing music writer Dave Seville (Jason Lee). Dave returns home unaware that he has three talking chipmunks in tow.

As anyone who encountered talking chipmunks would do, Dave immediately throws them out. However, amidst a heavy rainstorm outside Dave's door, the trio begins to sing a heartfelt Christmas song, shocking Dave and earning themselves room and board in his house. The rest of the film proceeds to uncover the trio and Dave's venture in the music industry.

While the relationship between Dave and the chipmunks is fairly well grounded at the beginning, the movie moves on too quickly from there. All of a sudden, without much intermediary action, a business relationship becomes a father-children one. The producers may have thought that the added sentimentality would make the film more appealing, but in truth, it detracts from the silliness of the movie and is inappropriate in the setting.

Lee plays an inconsistent role in the movie. Though he is first characterized as lazy and futureless, one doesn't see much of that aside from when he throws his music equipment out the door after a failed audition with embarrassingly haughty music producer Ian Hawke (David Cross).

Like too many Hollywood films, this film attempts to develop a love interest for the lead character; in "Alvin and the Chipmunks," it's Claire Hanson (Cameron Richardson), Dave's ex-girlfriend who also happens to be his next-door neighbor as well as a celebrity photographer who coincidentally ends up becoming the trio's personal photographer. She pops up sporadically throughout the movie and acts as a helping hand to Dave when he starts having family problems with the chipmunks, which leads us to the saving grace of the film: Alvin, Simon and Theodore.

The chipmunks are incredibly cute. Not only are their songs characteristic of a professional a capella group — in the beginning of the film, the chipmunk family sings a rendition of Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" with beat boxing — their high and squeaky voices make your heart melt. They are also funny; in a particularly amusing scene, Dave finds Alvin singing and taking a shower in the dishwasher.

The character development of the trio is the best in the film, giving them more human qualities than their real human counterparts. Theodore, the impressionable and chubby chipmunk, portrays a son in desperate need of fatherly love after a nightmare. In contrast, Dave is missing in action for a large part of the film, leaving his character undeveloped.

Although Alvin and his friends may not have found the jump to the film industry as smooth as they wanted it to be, they are nonetheless lovable and their songs will have you smiling as you exit the theater.

"Alvin and the Chipmunks" (92 minutes) is rated PG for some mild rude humor and is now playing everywhere.

Ya Zhou. Ya likes what basically everyone needs. Eat, sleep…and more sleep. There can never be too much of it. In her spare time, she obsesses over Asian dramas and music. She often procrastinates, but hopes to remedy her problem by beginning SCO assignments before the weekend … More »

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