Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip isn’t a total turkey. Retract the claws for a second.
Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are at it again for a fourth go-around. It’s been eight years since their first foray into domestic potty humor and bothering a fish-eyed Jason Lee. And what a curious eight years, given that the average lifespan of the Eastern chipmunk is three years in the wild, according to National Geographic. (Don’t tell small children this.) Yep! The Chipmunks are very much alive and kicking it on behalf of Fox’s bottom line.
Yessir, the Huey, Louie, and Dewey of high-pitched singing are back and at it again. Just look at how we meet them this time, it’s bananas: they’re throwing a party with a skateboard ramp and that guy from LMFAO with the glasses DJing, and Retta from Parks and Recreation as the party coordinator (uncredited, too)…herm, it’s too much too fast. Kids movies with corporate tie-ins, right?
Here’s the short deal: The Chipmunks are bummed out because their foster father Dave (Lee) is considering marrying a nice doctor named Shira (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). Shira has a ghastly tool of a teenager son, Miles (Josh Green), who bullies the three chipmunks. In a desperate bid to stop the proposal, the Chipmunks and Miles forge an unholy alliance to travel from L.A. to Miami. How sweet?
From there, it’s Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the PG-set. Wacky animals on a plane. Southern-fried stereotypical cabbies. Panhandling for airfare while running from Johnny Law, a.k.a Tony Hale as Sugg, an air marshal. (The fact that his name is basically a set up for a tattoo gag, “SUGG LIFE,” is so desperately transparent that it’s somewhat funny.) Gas, break, honk. Song, fart, gas. Sir Mix-A-Lot, American Idol tie-in, odd use of Danny Elfman’s score from Midnight Run.
Okay, so, a lot of it is bad.
That’s clear as day. Here’s your standard typical commercial project with all the cynicism that one would normally find in a low-budget, lowbrow property for wee ones. Toots, ca-ca-doo-doo, and some mild amounts of piss. Those scratching little voices covering the latest pop hits like yet another NOW! album. The Fox synergistic product placement (Access Hollywood, Ferrari, Nissan, Bud Light, Valium…that last one was brought from home). This is a movie that meets the minimum running time to be considered a feature film and has no grander ambition than to serve as a sneaky alternative for families when Star Wars is sold out. There’s a laziness to The Road Chip, what with its mostly stale or needy jokes and cutesy plotting. You can skip this pretty easily. What would be more fun is imagining the marketing committee on this one trying to come with viable puns for this “squeakuel.” Goin’ Nuts? Route Chip-0-Chip? Alvin You Can Drive My Car?
It’s just that it’s not all that bad.
For example, this is from Walt Becker, the director of bro-coms like Van Wilder and Wild Hogs. The Road Chip is less misogynistic and homophobic than those films. Easy win. Also, Tony Hale as the film’s villain fits the material better than, say, a bitter and jaded David Cross. Dare it be said: he looks like he’s having a good time. Also an easy win. There’s a great John Waters cameo. Also a win. “Uptown Funk” on Bourbon Street with a marching band sound? A semi-win, especially because the drums overpower the Chipmunks’ voices. Finally, and it earns a groan the way it’s played, but the film boasts positive themes like the new normal in American family life.
Yes, Dave finally (SPOILERS IN A CHIPMUNK MOVIE REVIEW. STAND BACK, PEOPLE) adopts the Chipmunks, and God help us, it’s a reasonably nice gesture. Even if it’s still a manipulative one.