Some things stick with you from your childhood and later in life it's nice to see them come back around. Look at how many franchises have been revitalized lately by Hollywood from Transformers to G.I. Joe and even Garfield. Alvin and the Chipmunks joined their ranks a while ago (though to be fair the '80s come back was the original revitalization from the '50s concept) and I dare say that despite being critically panned, the first film induced feelings of nostalgia within me. Growing up I used to watch the show religiously and to this day the Chipmunks Christmas song is standard fair in my household. Just a few months ago a sequel was released and later this month it will arrive on DVD. Is it worth checking out for a sense of nostalgia?
Alvin and the Chipmunks follows the lives of three chipmunk brothers: Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney). These rodents are different from traditional chipmunks in the sense that they can sing, talk, and do everything that regular humans can do. Through a series of circumstances they wound up living with a guy named Dave Seville (Jason Lee). Dave manages their ridiculously successful musical career, which is one of the gimmicks, but he also considers them to be like his own sons. The boys adopt the Seville name and despite being anthropomorphic chipmunks they are widely accepted by people wherever they go.
In The Squeakquel the film opens up with Alvin and the gang on a charity concert tour. During one particular performance Alvin tears it up on stage and Dave gets caught in the crossfire, winding up in a hospital bed in Paris. He's in dire straights and while recuperating he decides to send the boys back home to go to school and live with their aunt, Jackie. Unfortunately things don't go quite as planned and instead they wind up being cared for by their human cousin, Toby Seville (Zachary Levi), who does nothing but lounge around and play video games all day.
As the film moves forward the Chipettes are introduced. Brittany (Christina Applegate), Jeanette (Anna Faris) and Eleanor (Amy Poehler) are looking to break into the recording industry and get to know Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. Unfortunately for the Chipettes they are delivered into the not-so tender graces of Ian Hawke (David Cross), who puts them to work and attempts to destroy the Chipmunks in the process. From here the plot follows a rather straightforward predictable path at the school as both bands attend hold a sing-off competition to revitalize the school's music program. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say it's painfully obvious what's going to happen after just a few moments.
On the positive side, The Squeakquel offers up several fun moments for the whole family. Alvin's antics are as entertaining as ever, the Chipettes were a great addition, and all around the film has a personality that personifies what fans of the original series would expect. Where the movie falters is the script. Oh my god, the script!
The dialogue here is downright brutal at times. It really feels like the movie is talking down to its audience; and yes I realize the audience for this film is much younger than I am. Several scenes in the film turn into after-school special material, the villain is utterly ridiculous, the Chipettes are annoyingly naïve, and Levi's role as Toby is totally under utilized. The brand of humor also boils down to slapstick comedy and bodily functions, which add nothing to the experience, I assure you. Despite that fact, there were many times where truly endearing qualities of the Chipmunks comes through. When the brothers are together the film sizzles more often than not, and their interactions with the Chipettes are downright adorable. It's just a shame that everything else in between utterly fails on just about every level.
As far as the picture quality of this DVD release is concerned the film is presented with its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. This review copy was a screener provided by Fox and as such is thankfully not indicative of the final product. The resolution of this disc was the pits, the film was crippled by compression artifacts, and all around the image was unsatisfactory. The sound quality was very good, however. The center-heavy 5.1 Dolby Digital track produced some solid audio with an appropriate amount of bass backing dialogue, effects, and the music (which was surprisingly good, I might add).
This release of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel comes in the form of a two-disc special edition. The first disc includes the film as well as some trailers, scenes of music from the movie, and a "Music Mania" featurette (9:01), which is pretty much a behind the scenes look at what it took to bring elements of the film and concert scene to life. The second disc actually holds quite a selection of content to dig through.
"Munking History" (9:19) looks at the origin of the characters and how the franchise blossomed originally and came back in the 80's. Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and Janice Karman provided some nice commentary in this featurette. "Meet the Chipettes" (8:36) focuses on the girls, obviously, with some retrospective on their performances by the actresses. "Rockin' Rising Stars" (6:20) introduces some of the young music talent that was featured in the film. It's a bit of a fluff piece, but interesting enough just the same.
"The Chipmunks: Behind the Squeak" (9:40) is a lame faux documentary style look at the Chipmunks as though they were real. "A-Nut-Omy of a Scene" (2:40) is an examination of the effects used to put digital chipmunks in a scene with actors. "Meet the Stuffies" (3:09) is a production-type feature with a look at the puppets that were used on set for actors to focus on. The final option from the featurette menu is "Shake Your Groove Thing! With Rosero" (8:58), which teaches viewers some dance moves to accompany the music. You can also practice these moves with the music video selection if you wish, though I think that ones more for the kiddies.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is pretty entertaining at parts, but the experience as a whole is really a big letdown. The plot is weak, the dialogue talks down to the viewers, and throughout it all only a handful of scenes really rise above the rest. This is ultimately a film that will only appeal to the much younger members of the audience, and even then there are still better forms of entertainment. The audio package is solid. The extras are worth digging through and there's a decent selection of features. Overall this release is a rental for those looking to entertain the kids with Alvin and the gang.