Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
When I was a kid in the late fifties and early sixties there was a strange trend in popular music; novelty songs. They were intended mostly for their comical value without any pretense at being a musical accomplishment. Some like Alan Sherman’s ode to a bad summer camp, ‘Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda’ launched a series of full albums while some about ‘Purple People Eaters’ or men in white coats coming to take you away became one hit wonders. One of the most successful and enduring franchises to come out of this trend revolved around a musical group consisting of a trio of high pitched singing rodents called ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’. They had a Christmas themed song that hit big 1958. I feel a bit old reviewing the film under consideration here, ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks the Squeakquel’, since I did own the original album. Other songs and albums were released and in 1961 they took shape for a popular kid’s TV cartoon series. The furry creatures had a revival in 1983 with another carton show. Alvin has also been immortalized with his own giant balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, one of the highest honors for a cartoon character. In 2007 a combination of live action and CGI brought Alvin and his two brothers, Simon and Theodore into the new millennium. The unique sound was developed by the creator of the chipmunks, Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. he recorded the voices at half speed so playing it back at normal speed would raise the pitch. In order to keep the correct sound for the instrumentals the music was recorded separately. Bagdasarian would also appear as the human ‘father’ to the chipmunks, Dave Seville, played in the recent films by Jason Lee. Nostalgia factor aside the films are admittedly corny and may have some trouble finding the right audience. Little kids will most likely get into it but from the tween demographic on the kids may feel the hip-hop styling and use of current popular music not what they could get into. Both the 2007 film and this ‘Squeakquel’ are available on regular DVD and Blu-ray.
Returning from the first movie in this new chapter of the chipmunk saga are Jon Vitti and Jonathan Aibel providing the script. In this story the Chipmunks, self centered Alvin (voiced by Justin Long, sensible Simon (voiced by Matthew Gray Gubler) and impressionable Theodore (voiced by Jesse McCartney) have achieved international stardom as the most popular rock group on the globe. In the opening number they are playing to a sold out a huge arena in Paris with a live feed carried around the world. Even an Eskimo family is watching in their igloo. As always Alvin ignores Dave and causes a big accident by showing off. Dave is rushed to a hospital badly injured and has to stay prolonged time. Ave arranges for the Chipmunks to go back home under the watchful eye of their Aunt Jackie (Anjelah N. Johnson) but before they can get out of the airport Alvin causes another accident sending Jackie to the hospital. This leaves the boys in the care of their loser cousin Toby (Zachary Levi) who would much rather play video games all day. Dave wants the boys to take a break from their fame and enjoy a normal ‘childhood’ so he has them attend the local school; West Eastman High. At this point the film transforms into a fairly cleaver parody of just about every teen flick ever made. First there is the famous kid in a normal school as the boys have to fit in with a student body made up of fans. Then there is the jock ridicule as the most popular sports star, Ryan (Kevin G. Schmidt) leads a campaign of terror on the chipmunks until the most popular girl, Julie (Anjelah N. Johnson) demonstrates her fandom making Ryan jealous. During a game of dodge ball Ryan notices Alvin is able to catch the ball and invites him to join the football team. This will lead to the required big game, last second win with Alvin.
The main portion of the story has to do with the return of the unscrupulous former record producer Ian Hawk (David Cross) coming back after his failed attempt to exploit the boys resulted in his being fired, he’s still around covertly living in the basement of the record company sort of like the phantom of the opera. One morning he opens a Fed Ex package and out pop three female chipmunks; Brittany (Christina Applegate), Jeanette (Anna Faris) and Eleanor (Amy Poehler). They just wanted to meet the Chipmunks but Ian sees this as his way back to the top. He forms the girls into a singing group calling them the Chipettes. This opens up the potential plot devices to include the ‘mirror image’ romance with each chipmunk neatly paired with a corresponding chipette. It also sets them against each other in a perennial favorite, the battle of the bands. It all gets wrapped up nice and neatly by the end but not until the action genre gets a nod with a toy car and helicopter in to scale high speed chase.
They can get away with such a predictable screenplay mostly because the target audience is sufficiently young enough to not notice. What will grab the attention of all ages is the incredible use of computer graphics. This is especially true in this Blu-ray edition. The high definition video makes it possible to see a level of detail that will blow you away. The chipmunk fur is composed of clearly discernable hairs that seem to have a life of their own in the wind or when the character moves. Each of the characters displays their own individual way of moving giving the impression of distinct characters. this is especially evident in the many dance numbers. All of the chipmunks have a somewhat realistically movement almost liquid like in quality. The girls move like a well rehearsed human girl pop group. the songs are all taken from the most popular in a fairly recent teen and tween context. It will appeal mostly to the youngest members of the family but it can offer a fun night for all.
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