Who's in It:
Jason Lee, David Cross, Jane Lynch, the voices of Justin Long, Jesse McCartney, Matthew Gray Gubler
The Basics: It's an origin story, like the kind every comic-book superhero has, except that these are CG chipmunks. Alvin, Theodore and Simon find Dave Seville, a struggling songwriter, and together they become a famous singing group and teach each other the true meaning of family. Someone out there will hate it for that reason and assume it's part of the liberal media's agenda to promote nontraditional living arrangements as normal. But really, who's to say that adopting three digital rodents doesn't make you a dad? Not me.
What's the Deal? I've been dreading this for months now. Seriously, just wishing that all the prints would burn up in a fire. That was the marketing campaign's fault, dressing them in hoodies and making them look all gangsta. It's the Scarface-ification of children's pop culture, and it's just wrong. So anyway, the actual movie doesn't go in for much of this. They do update that dorky song "Witch Doctor" to be all Black Eyed Peas-ish, but beyond that, the worst thing that happens is that part in the trailer where one of them accidentally eats the other one's poop. Gross, yes, but kids will fall out laughing.
Amount of Fear and Loathing Parents Should Have: Surprisingly very little. Your kids will love it, and it won't wreck your own childhood memories of the Chipmunks much at all. Meanwhile, it passed my personal test of including a non-offensive cover of that Christmas song about the hula hoop that they're most famous for.
When It Sucks the Most: When the little rats aren't around. Then all you get are a lot of humans gritting their teeth for a paycheck. Cross seems to be having the most true fun, but Lee seems unhappy to be in the film. He doesn't even yell "ALVIN!" very loudly. I question his commitment to acting opposite computer-generated talking animals.
Trivia: Lee's character lives in apartment 1958, the year the Chipmunks were created by Ross Bagdasarian. And if you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, you'll be interested to know that Bagdasarian is the pianist that Jimmy Stewart spies on.