Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Every Christmas we hear the music. And now somebody thought it was a good idea to make a movie starring the Chipmunks. The first trailer was horrendous. There just were no laughs other than the feces as raisin joke...and that was pretty juvenile. So there looked to be no reason to see this movie.

Fortunately, it was actually pretty good. The movie opens with Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) singing "You've Had a Bad Day" while stuffing a tree with nuts. Alvin pushes too hard and they lose all the nuts which leads to complaining about life in the forest. Meanwhile, tree farmers cut down the tree...with the Chipmunks in it...and put it up as a Christmas tree at Jett records.

Meanwhile, David (Jason Lee) was going to Jett Records to meet with Ian (David Cross) in an attempt to sell him a song David had written. On his way he runs into ex-girlfriend Claire (Cameron Richardson) who sees he is, as usual, late to be somewhere but agrees to come to dinner anyway.

At Jett Records Ian just blows up David's song-writing skills and tells him to get a different career, to give up on the songwriting. Angry, David steals a fruit basket. As he is walking through the lobby, the Chipmunks are trying to return to the woods and, to avoid danger, smuggle themselves into the basket. Thus is born the unlikely partnership.

At first it is a negative one as the Chipmunks wreck the house and foul up David's dinner with Claire. However, there are moments of tenderness as well.

David ends up writing Christmas Don't Be Late, the Chipmunks are a hit, and then a struggle for control of the Chipmunks erupts between the angelic David who wants to give them a healthy life with planning for the future and Ian who wants to market them heavily, take them on tours, and let them live a life with no rules. David's unwillingness to be open about his fondness for them causes the Chipmunks to head out on the road with Ian.

Soon their excesses render them unhappy but Ian is bent on marketing them heavily and making bank. In the finale David must rescue the chipmunks, admit they are his family, and get Claire.

First, the good.

The Chipmunks are well-animated, fun to watch, and the music is surprisingly good. There are more laughs than expected and Theodore steals virtually every scene he is in. David Cross gives an excellent performance and is a strong foil for David and the Chipmunks.

Then, the bad.

Cameron Richardson has little to do, Jason Lee is not as into his character as normal, and at times in the crowd scenes you can tell nobody is really into it.

Finally, the ugly.

The final chase scene does not fit with the movie. It is poorly choreographed and, frankly, pretty lame. It really lost me which is sad because up until then I was really, really digging the movie. But most disappointing was the Jason Lee version of Seville's (David Seville) famous, "AAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLVVVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNN" cry of disgust. Lee never sells out and gives one that resonates the way Seville's did.

Still, it was a very entertaining movie with some good laughs and was much, much better than expected.

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