Sunday, March 28, 2010

To be released Tuesday on DVD: "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel"

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Single-Disc Version)

Grade: C-minus

There is, admittedly, a low bar to be met for a sequel called Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Does it have three big-tailed, singing nut-storers? Check. Do they have high-pitched voices? Check. Okay, so director Betty Thomas' Squeakquel is as advertised.

However, the 6- to 9-year-old audience this movie is aimed at deserved better. The movie's plot is a hodgepodge of standard kid-film elements spread around a nest of fame-obsession. The visual jokes about the Chipmunks' presence in the human world aren't silly enough, and neither is the idea of our heroes being beloved as "rock stars."

Finally, though three writers are credited with Thomas' (The Brady Bunch Movie) followup to the 2007 smash, no one can think of anything for the Chipettes - three girl 'munks dreaming of the big time - to do besides bat their brown eyes and sing a little.

Still, there are a few attempts at heart. After hyper Alvin's (Justin Long) onstage high jinks put songwriter "dad" Dave (Jason Lee) in the hospital, Alvin and the "boys" are placed in the care of their dopey cousin Toby (Zachary Levi). He sends them to high school, where Alvin is recruited by the football team when he shows he has a furry little throwing arm. He soon learns that it isn't cool to abandon his brothers, timid Theodore and bookish Simon.

Meanwhile, nasty would-be music promoter Ian Hawke (David Cross) finds Brittany, Eleanor and Jeanette and promotes them as the Chipettes. When they compete with the Chipmunks at a benefit music contest, Simon and Theodore must forgive Alvin if they want to win.

It doesn't matter that talented funnywomen Christina Applegate, Amy Poehler and Anna Faris are the voices of Brittany, Eleanor and Jeanette, because the speed-up chirp makes them all sound the same. They, too, make a stand for togetherness when Ian wants to make Brittany a solo star.

The movie's conceit of making the people act cartoony rather than the CGI chi[munks has a leveling effect, and for at least the third time Cross taps his inner child for kiddie-flick villainy. Though the slapstick required of everyone, animals or not, will exhaust even parents who remember the Chipmunks' original hits.

Speaking of that, the almost-tween crowd may recognize the chipmunks soing choices here, but they lack spunk. Say what you will about the first movie, but it still had The Christmas Song and Witch Doctor, and a nod to the characters 1950s and '60s roots. Here, kids get some toilet jokes and We Are Family. Guess there wasn't much to burrow into after all.

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