Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

alvin and the chipmunks the squeakquel one sheetThose three mischievous CG chipmunks are back in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel though their “parent” and guardian Dave (Jason Lee) is surprisingly absent from this sequel, getting a total of about ten minutes of screen time. The boys guardian is supposed to be Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten) but she has even less screen time, just enough to have a pratfall and then remain offscreen (and out of mind) in the hospital recovering for the rest of the film. Instead, her slacker video-game-addict grandson Toby (Zachary Levi) moves into Dave’s house to theoretically take care of the chipmunks, Alvin (voice of Justin Long), Theodore (voice of Jesse McCartney) and Simon (voice of Matthew Gray Gubler) while actually ignoring them completely.

While Dave is laid up in a Parisian hospital after a zany sequence of chipmunk-induced events rockets him across the stage at a charity concert, he arranges for the chipmunks to go to school “like real boys”, though when they’re 8-inches tall going to high school seems a bit odd. Nonetheless, they dutifully show up for their first day at the amusingly named West Eastman High.
The big twist in this Alvin and the Chipmunks installment is that they boys fall in love. With human girls? Perish the thought!  With three girl chipmunk singing and dancing sensations called the Chipettes: Brittany (voice of Christina Applegate), Eleanor (voice of Amy Poehler) and Jeanette (voice of Anna Faris). 
This is not great filmmaking. Even for a children’s film, it’s shallow and rather goofy, with storylines that are never resolved and sporadic potentially inappropriate innuendo, but my test audience (my children and their friend) gave it the thumbs up, so this might well be one case where good enough is, well, good enough to be entertaining for its brief 80 minutes or so.

I was surprised more than once at the lack of what I’ll call thread tying in the story. For example, school principle Dr. Rubin (Wendie Malick) seems to have some attraction to Dave, but while they do have a few minutes of standing next to each other during the final concert scene, they never do actually connect, yet it’d be a nice lead-in to a potential third film.

Similarly, and more annoyingly, Toby is a complete slacker, he’s graduated college and still lives with his grandma (Aunt Jackie) while he’s “trying to figure out what to do with his life.”  Okay, a good setup, but when he bumps into music teacher Julie Ortega (Anjelah N. Johnson) and then professes his adoration of her on stage, we expect a more meaningful resolution than the two of them hugging. What about him deciding he’s found his “calling” and getting on with his life?  What about some sort of character growth and development?  Yeah, I know, it’s a vapid kids movie, but still, why not add that to the story when all the elements are there?
Reprising his role from the first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, the greedy talent agent Ian Hawke (David Cross) is amusingly over the top, tricking the Chipettes into believing he’s the real thing, not the janitor working in the basement of Jett Records. He goes as far as to con them into letting him into a deluxe penthouse model apartment that, he assures them, is his home. 

alvin and the chipmunks squeakquel publicity still

Alvin romantically greets one of the lovely coeds at West Eastman High School

The story revolves around the Chipmunks volunteering to represent West Eastman High at a big district competition called Music Mania with the prize being $25,000, just what the music department needs to stay afloat. But when the Chipettes show up, Hawke maneuvers the situation so that the two dance troupes end up competing to see who will represent the school, setting the girls against the boys. Well, girl chipmunks versus boy chipmunks, that is!
Meanwhile, Alvin has been befriended by football star jock Ryan (Kevin G. Schmidt) and is experiencing the pull between being in the singing group with his brothers and being with the football team, helping lead them to a surprising victory. Sports with the cool kids, or singing with his family?  Tough call for a little chipmunk.
There are also a few inappropriate comments and innuendoes in the movie that are worth mentioning, including a comment about Aunt Jackie “pole dancing” and another where Alvin tells an opponent on the gridiron “I’m going to eat you, with fava beans and a nice white chianti”, a reference to the very adult Silence of the Lambs.
Some of the musical numbers are highly entertaining, I have to admit. The little chipmunks (male and female) are quite the dancers, even if it’s all just CG. Numbers performed include “All The Single Ladies”, a highlight of the entire movie, and “We Are Family” with both the Chipmunks and Chipettes.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is light, innocuous fare, as you would expect. There was potential for something slightly deeper (okay, I admit, maybe 3 inches deep instead of 1/2-inch, but still!) but they clearly didn’t go in that direction. If you think 8-inch tall CG chipmunks have the potential to be amusing, then this is definitely the film for you and your little ones.

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