Dave's Rating:

2.5

Slouching towards maximum profits.

It's wrong to give drugs to your children. You don't have to be Joan Didion interviewing a kindergarten-aged LSD casualty (the one she wrote about in her chilling landmark essay "Slouching Towards Bethlehem") to understand that.

But let's say you just want to put them into a hazy, non-toxic trance for 90 minutes while you nap or answer emails or just space out and stare off into space for a bit. It's December, you're exhausted, you deserve a little break. And I have a movie for you.

When I'm sitting in the press screening of a film like this, one that's so rigorously focused on appealing to elementary school-aged children and younger, I make sure to pay close attention to how it affects its target demo. A clue: if they're squealing and yelling and bouncing up and down before the movie and blissfully, quietly attentive during the movie, that means it's working. And this one is working overtime.

There's nothing here for grown-ups. Nothing. It's the definition of contractual obligation for every single adult involved, a revenue-generating vehicle for 20th Century Fox. The Chipmunks and (their friends? girlfriends? sisters? sometimes it's hard to tell) the Chipettes travel on a cruise ship. They get stranded on a deserted island. Simon is bitten by a personality-altering-neurotoxin-carrying spider. David Cross wears a pelican costume for the entire length of the film. They sing Lady Gaga songs. The End. It's not the worst, most empty-hearted children's product you'll ever witness. It's good-natured all the way. It's loud. It's bright and shiny. It's a technological achievement on some level I don't understand, probably. And so I was neither offended nor all that bored. It hits all the marks it sets out to hit.

But for small children, the appeal is easy to understand. The Chipmunks are tiny little creatures that always get their way, they sing to adoring crowds, they surf waterslides, they outrun volcanoes. They're invincible and, therefore, appeal to the desire for ultimate power that all post-toddlers possess. It's wish fulfillment on an extra-large scale. Furthermore, it'll probably serve as an exercise in listening comprehension for your little ones, because the digitized voices of everyone involved (people like Justin Long and Amy Poehler) are even more sped up than back in 1958 when that Chipmunks Christmas song hit radio stations and galvanized the souls of every generation of toy-grabbing children from that point in history forward.

So there. It's easy. They'll behave for an hour and half, you can still think of yourself as a good parent and Joan Didion will never write any bad news about you. Count your blessings.

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