Who’s In It: Jason Lee, David Cross, Zachary Levi, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate, Wendie Malick
The Basics: Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are now worldwide teen idols more popular than The Jonas Brothers when a series of accidents land their human guardian, Dave (Jason Lee) in a body cast. Sent to live under the not-so-watchful eye of Dave’s video game-obsessed cousin Toby (Zachary Levi), the boys start going to high school for the first time, where they discover school spirit, swirlies, and girls – namely, the Chipettes, a rival girl group managed by the Chipmunks’ old nemesis (David Cross). As the Chipmunks and the Chipettes face off in a battle of the bands, Alvin’s ego tears a rift in the brothers’ relationship and David Cross threatens to consume all of the scenery in the entire movie. Meanwhile, nobody seems to wonder why talking animals who wear no pants are trying to go to high school with human teenagers in the first place.
What’s The Deal: This may shock those of you who’ve been conditioned to expect absolute dreck from movies with names other than Pixar stamped on them, but Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is actually enjoyable, in a way a movie about singing CG rodents has no right to be. Perhaps part of it comes from the goodwill I still have for the franchise dating back to 1987’s The Chipmunk Adventure, a hand-drawn adventure that also benefitted from the addition of the Chipettes. As in that film, whenever Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor are on screen, The Squeakquel comes alive. Unfortunately, when they’re not, it gets tedious and you worry for the sanity and career longevity of folks like Jason Lee and David Cross, who should be doing stuff way better than acting crazy and yelling at make-believe creatures made of pixels and helium voices.
When It Works Best: Every time a musical number starts. In the age of Glee and American Idol, we’ve become collectively rapt whenever anyone – even a pint-sized, animated chipmunk – covers a pop song without sounding like William Hung. While Alvin, Simon, and Theodore stick with the rote rock ‘n’ roll standards (like The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” with lyrics adapted into an ode to cheese balls), the Chipettes dazzle with pop numbers from Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” to Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On.”
All The Single Chipmunks, All The Single Chipmunks: After seeing Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor wiggle, shake it, and outright grind their way like the Pussycat Dolls through Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” you may not be able to hear the song without thinking of their high-pitched harmonies. And yet, entertaining as it is to watch preteen anthropomorphic chipmunk girls coo seductively at the screen like seasoned harlots, it feels a tad inappropriate when their nubile, furry, young bodies roll out of a FedEx package to beg Cross’s slimy record exec for a shot at stardom.