Playing around while aboard a cruise ship, the Chipmunks and Chipettes accidentally go overboard and end up marooned in a tropical paradise. They discover their new turf is not as deserted as it seems.
Many questions plagued my mind as I prepared to see the preview of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 3:CHIPWRECKED. For example: would I be able to catch up with the saga of the Chipmunks on their third outing? I’d only ever seen the 1980s television cartoon (they made 104 episodes, trivia fans!) and would this new 21st century version of the Chipmunk Trio make sense to me?
I settled down in the second from front row at 9.30am on a Sunday morning. Seemingly hundreds of small children packed the room, waiting in restless anticipation. A toddler who should have been called Marcel, looked at me accusingly. In the multi-coloured world of short people that we now inhabited, he was wondering what a rumpled, black-clad man who looked like the Comic Store Guy from The Simpsons was doing slumped in a cinema seat checking Facebook on his phone and taking small sips from an indifferent latte. Perceptive kid. Marcel and I would soon see if Alvin and his rodent buddies had the power to entertain the youngest of cinema-goers.
And then it started. The bright colours. The upbeat music. The squeaky high voices. The kids were locked in. They paid rapt attention to the well-staged antics and nimble pacing of the movie. The film has live action actors and locations combined with computer-generated Chipmunks. Alvin is voiced by Justin Long.
I soon discovered that the set up I remembered–the Chipmunks as a musical trio–was out of date. Old School. Dark Ages. Dead Sea Scrolls. Now the Chipmunks have backing singers called the Chipettes. The three Chipettes are female equivalents of the Chipmunks. They joined the franchise in AATC 2: The Squeakquel where it seems no one had any problem with the newbies getting romantically entangled with their male carbon copies.* In this movie it’s more Chipettes versus Chipmunks and all six versus their human friend and guardian Dave Seville (Lee)
The story in a nutshell: Dave and his six furry wards go on a cruise. Eventually the Chipmunks and Chipettes are stranded on a deserted island. Dave has to rescue them but his efforts are hampered by the bad guy of the second movie, Ian Hawke (David Cross). However they all have to contend with a slightly crazed anthropology student Zoe (Jenny Slate) in order to get off the island and return to civilisation.
It is doubtful the target audience was concerned with any of the above. The colour, motion, slapstick comedy and music came practically non-stop. There are a dozen “Chippified” covers in the movie (e.g. Willow Smith’s WHIP MY HAIR becomes WHIP MY TAIL). During every musical interlude there was dancing in the aisles and in front of the screen. Alvin was their Justin Bieber.
CHIPWRECKED defies analysis. Like the other Chipmunk films it has scored low on aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes. I suspect this is because these films aren’t considered quality fare like a Toy Story or Ponyo. However, I thought CHIPWRECKED was okay. No uplift or inspiration, but neither was it a 90 minute toy commercial. I was irritated by the songs, amused by David Cross’s performance and mostly entertained by the story.
However it was aimed not at me, but at Marcel and his cohort. There is, spoiler alert, an active volcano on the deserted island. As it began to rumble, Marcel and his brother Cicero stood opened mouthed at this harbinger of imminent doom. Would the munks and ‘ettes escape Nature’s cruel fury? I know this was their reaction because they blocked my view of the screen as they did so. They were that into it.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 3: CHIPWRECKED is excellently timed to premiere in Australia on New Year’s Day. It runs for 87 minutes. I sneer at other Internet critics and award it a rating of 3/5.
*CORRECTION: As an astute AccessReeler has pointed out, The Chipettes were invented in the early 1980s, first in album form then they were made part of the animated television series. I saw the TV show quite a bit–yet spookily–have no memory of them. They have appeared in various telemovies since. Because the Chipettes were not part of the “original” 2007 film I assumed quite wrongly they were blow-ins. My apologies to the Chipettes, The United States of America and my fellow AccessReelers. Thanks to Wikipedia and the ever watchful Rachael.