Monday, December 17, 2007

Play&Do: Alvin and the Chipmunks


by Jane Louise Boursaw
Reel Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor.
Theatrical Release: Dec. 14, 2007
Genre: Family, Comedy, Musical
Runtime: 90 minutes
Directed by: Tim Hill
Cast: Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Jane Lynch.

SYNOPSIS: Cute chipmunks? Check. Fun songs? Check. Family story? Check. Aside from some crude humor and sexy background singers, this live action/CG movie stays true to the 1960s cartoon series that made Alvin, Simon and Theodore household names. The story centers on their vintage tune, “The Chipmunk Song,” but also blends in new songs like “Bad Day,” “Funkytown,” and “Follow Me Now.” Maybe I’m a dork, but I thought this movie was very cute and fun for kids and adults.

Profanity: Some suggestive language, like “Make love to the camera,” “She wanted you,” and “You’re hot.” Also a few insults between the chipmunk brothers.

Sex/ Nudity: Background singers dress in tight outfits and dance suggestively. The chipmunks try to “romance up” Dave’s place (music, lighting) when a girl comes over for dinner.

Violence/Gore: The chipmunks fall out of a tree, dodge crowds in an office building, and trash a house. Dave gets bonked on the head and passes out. Security guards try to ban him from a concert.

Which Kids Will Like It? Ages 5 and older who love cute talking animals, the Chipmunks cartoon series, or family stories.

Will Parents Like It? Yes, although they could have done without the provocative singers. Also, a few scenes include potty humor (a chipmunk eats poop to cover for his brother!). Overall, though, cute movie with cute songs. I enjoyed it, and so did my 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. The chipmunk voices didn’t even grate on me like I thought they would.

REVIEW: I had to dig around in my mom’s cabinets, but reigned supreme in my quest to find a vintage Chipmunk album: “Christmas With the Chipmunks,” released in 1963. It’s the one with Alvin, Simon and Theodore in Santa’s sleigh with a pile of toys. Ah, that takes me back.

This movie is fun and musical and stays true to the original cartoon series, while adding a fresh, modern take on the loveable trio. The story begins in the forest, with Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Theodore (Jesse McCartney), and Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) collecting acorns for the winter, cheerily singing “Bad Day.” The chipmunks are computer-generated, but the rest of their world (most of it) is the real deal.

When their tree is rudely chopped down by woodsmen, the little guys accidentally get hauled into the big city, smack into an office complex where Dave Seville (Jason Lee, of “My Name is Earl”) is striking out yet again in his pursuit to sell songs to a record company. After a mad dash through the crowds, they end up in a basket of muffins that Dave has swiped in disgruntlement.

He discovers them back at his house, and thinks he must be losing his mind. Talking chipmunks? What the heck? So he tosses them out of the house, but has another thought upon hearing them croon outside the window. He’ll write the songs. The ‘munks will sing them. They make a deal to live with Dave in exchange for singing the tunes. They’re innocent, but not dumb.

And so it goes, with the message that perhaps a family doesn’t have to consist of blood relatives – or even the same species, for that matter. When the chipmunks fall under the spell of the rich-and-famous lifestyle – nudged along by cash-hungry record producer Ian (David Cross) -- Dave has to step in and pull them back from the brink. He gets a little help from Claire (Cameron Richardson), who has a press pass into the events.

The chipmunks are cute as the dickens, and I’m happy to introduce my kids to the little guys I remember as a kid. This movie could have done without the provocative backup singers and poop humor, but overall, a good message about the importance of family, treating others respectfully, and learning that celebrities are rarely ever the happiest people on the planet.

REEL RATING SYSTEM:

One Reel: Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels: Coulda been a contender.
Three Reels: Something to talk about.
Four Reels: You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels: Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.

Jane Louise Boursaw is a freelance journalist specializing in the movie and television industries. Visit her online at www.ReelLifeWithJane.com or email jboursaw@charter.net.

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