Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip Is A Road Trip to Nowhere
Another year, another Chipmunks movie.
Way back in 2007 the first CGI chipmunks graced the silver screen in Alvin and the Chipmunks.
For what it was, I thought the 2007 movie was actually pretty good. As good as a modern adaptation of the ageless trio of signing mischief making chipmunks could be. Quite impressive considering the chipmunks have been with us since 1958. The CGI was convincing in the both the look of the chipmunks and how they interacted with the world. The story was entertaining in that it was a tongue in cheek origin story focused on the tug of war over who would take care of the boys. The caring and fatherly, Dave Seville (Jason Lee) or the despicably greedy record exec, Ian Hawke (David Cross). The script cleverly had the kiddie humor come from Alvin and his brothers while the more adult jokes came courtesy of the excellent casting of Lee and Cross.
In all seriousness, Jason Lee is a very good Dave Seville throughout all the chipmunk movies who plays a kind, warm and loving father to the boys. Lee does a great job of acting straight with a straight face considering his main costars are three imaginary singing chipmunks. And David Cross, who is funny in everything he does, was a great antagonist who was absurdly funny in also playing his corporate exec character in a straight and deadpan fashion against his furry adversaries.
The first film was widely successful making nearly 6 times it’s 60 million budget back which of course is a huge greenlight for sequels which came in the form of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Sqeuakquel (2009), Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011) and now Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip.
Thankfully Jason Lee is back for the 4th film, but sadly, David Cross does not return for the Road Chip which probably has to do with comments he made about his involvement in Chipwrecked in which he called the producers ant-Jew on late night TV and said the filming was one of the worst experiences of his life as he spent nearly a week on a Carnival cruise shooting scenes stuck in a pelican costume for no reason. Comments he later apologized for, but if you’ve ever seen the film you can see his misery onscreen which I only thought made his performance all the more amusing.
The Road Chip opens with Alvin trying waaaay to hard to throw a massive house party which is fitting considering that after three previous movies, the Road Chip is in the same boat. Of course Dave comes home to find his house wrecked and let loose a deafening “ALVIIIIN!” scream. Normally the boys would be super grounded but they avoid punishment as Dave is leaving for Miami on a business trip and wants to spend time with the chipmunks before he leaves.
They all go miniature golfing the next day where the boys learn Dave has a new girlfriend (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) who the boys really like, but who also has a bratty son named, Miles (Josh Green) who loves nothing more than to torment the chipmunks at every opportunity. Alvin soon discovers Dave has an engagement ring which he fears would solidify the torture Miles brings upon the boys by adding him to their family, something Miles wants no part of either. So off Miles and the chipmunks go to travel to Miami and stop Dave from proposing.
Along the way they run afoul of a power tripping air marshall played by another Arrested Development alum, Tony Hale, who goes to ludicrous lengths to bring the three chipmunks to justice for hijinks committed while flying. The boys soon find themselves on the no fly list and resort to bumming rides across the southern states to make it to Miami.
And that’s pretty much the movie. Along the way the chipmunks run into odd charterers and strange situations while trying to stay one step ahead of the crazed air marshall hot on their furry heels. But after four chipmunk movies everything is as stale as the popcorn hidden under your theater seat. The jokes this time around aren’t very funny, the problems the trio find themselves in have all been done before. That’s to be expected. But what really shows the franchise is growing old and tired already is the lack of amusing celebrity cameos and relevant pop songs that should be easy softballs any chipmunks movie should hit out of the park. That the film can’t even get out of bed to cover these basics shows you how much lack of effort went into making the Road Chip.
The only enjoyable parts revolve around Dave’s interaction with the boys. Jason Lee literally and figuratively carries the chipmunks on his shoulders through the film and it’s a shame he isn’t focused on more in the same way Homer has become the main focus of the Simpsons as the seasons wore on. And again, missing David Cross hurts as well.
But what do I know? I’m trying to critically break down a chipmunks movie. A movie that clearly wasn’t intended for me in the first place. Though I liked the chipmunks as a kid and admit to even owning a few of their records, they have clearly passed me by.
It only makes sense that we should go with what the film’s real audience has to say about it.
And in that case I can say that my kids loved it.