"We're baaack," the irritating, high pitched, helium-esque voice of Alvin proclaims early in the follow-up installment to the commercially successful 2007 flick, Alvin and the Chipmunks. Featuring one of the dumbest subtitles to ever grace a film, The Squeakquel, and characters that would be indistinguishable if not for the glasses on Simon and the giant "A" on Alvin's t-shirt, I quickly found myself wishing that those opening words would have followed with "to being socially irrelevant."
The film begins at a concert the now world renowned Chipmunks are performing at. Alvin (voiced by Justin Long) is showboating and while offstage, Dave (Jason Lee) tells him that he needs to include the other two. The show isn't only about him. Alvin scoffs at him and continues to do his thing, only to accidentally knock a giant picture of himself down from the ceiling that smashes into Dave and hospitalizes him. They are put in the care of Toby (Zachary Levi) in the meantime and are forced to go to school where they encounter a mixture of immense popularity and incessant bullying. Meanwhile, Ian (David Cross reprising his role from the first film) is living in the slums, bitter at the Chipmunks for foiling his plans and he is searching for the next big thing. One day, a female group of Chipmunks show up, whom he dubs the Chipettes, and the rivalry, as well as romances, begin to heat up.
I grew up with the Chipmunks and, believe it or not, I didn't hate the first film. It was bad, but it wasn't that bad. It was an adequate time waster for the whole family that offered up a few moments of cuteness and joy, but the sequel lacks what that film had, which wasn't much to begin with.
Jason Lee, who plays Dave, was the main human character in the first movie. Though he certainly didn't wow me with his lackadaisical attitude and minimal effort, he was a decent fit for the role, but I get the feeling the filmmakers wanted to try someone different because he fades into obscurity here. He's in the opening scene and then again in the closing, but nearly nowhere in between. Instead, the caregiver of the Chipmunks is Ian who is a poor replacement for Dave. Zachary Levi does a terrible job. He may have a decent following for his role in the hit television show, "Chuck," but perhaps that is an indication that he is more suitable for the small screen. I know it's difficult to act with characters that aren't actually there with you, but his performance was so awful that it became a distraction.
Or at least it would have been had there been something interesting to distract from. The story follows the same ho-hum arc of the original film, only it tries to pass itself off as original by throwing in some female chipmunks, whom do little to spice up the affair.
The jokes don't fare much better, consisting of the tried and true formulas that children adore, like excretory humor and idiotic slapstick. How many times must we be forced to watch this inanity before Hollywood realizes it's simply not funny? When they tried to appeal to the adult audience in the theater, who no doubt begrudgingly wandered in for the sake of their child's enjoyment, it was usually in the form of old film references. These references not only defiled the sanctity of the original works. They chewed them, spit them out, stomped on them and pretty much tainted any type of legacy they may have had up to that point. Once you've heard those annoying little critters quote famous lines from Taxi Driver and Silence of the Lambs, there's no going back.
One thing I must question before I get into the positives (what little there are at least) is why the filmmakers got numerous people, a few huge stars even, to voice the characters. They all sound exactly the same. Case in point. When the Chipettes are first introduced, they are not shown and are only heard because they are sealed inside a package. I got confused. I thought, "How did the Chipmunks end up in there?" You see, their voices, despite being the opposite sex, were identical to Alvin, Theodore and Simon. Amy Poehler, Christina Applegate and Anna Faris voice the three Chipettes, but their voices are manipulated so much that you can't tell them apart from Justin Long, Jesse McCartney and Matthew Gubler, who voice the guys. Why not just get one person to do every voice?
Now, this is a kids movie and kids movies are easy targets, so I would like to point out a few things I did like. The animation is good. I thought the Chipmunks were capably rendered and the blend of cartoons and realism worked well for the tone of the film. Theodore, despite his aggravating voice, was also adorable, though that still didn't stop me from wishing that he would be devoured after he accidentally stumbles into the Birds of Prey cage at the local zoo late in the movie. What can I say? Cuteness can only get you so far.
What I really mean to say here is that two minor positive characteristics do little in the overall scheme of things to shadow the glaring problems persistent in the rest of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. I could go into so much more—poorly drawn out romances, side plots that go nowhere and numerous visual inconsistencies to name a few—but that would be similar to providing razorblades to the suicidal. It's already miserable. Why kick it when it's down?
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel receives 0.5/5