With three young children (6, 5 and 4 years) I have the dubious honour of being able to call myself something of a Chipmunks expert. Not the original Chipmunks, mind you, who date back to 1959. No, I’m only familiar with the latest incarnation of Alvin, thanks to my children’s borderline obsession with the singing trio. So when I said we were going to see movie #3 in the series, they very nearly passed out from the excitement.
I’ve seen Alvin & The Chipmunks, and Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel many, many times by virtue of the fact we own it on DVD. Middle child, DJ, in particular loves the singing trio. I’m going to nail my colours to the mast and reveal that I don’t love the Chipmunks. I barely like them. So this review isn’t going to be a full-throated devotion to the wonderful, all-singing, all-dancing ‘munks and their Chippettes.
However, put into the context of the children, and what young kids like, this third instalment is possibly the best of the three. Jason Lee is back, which if, like me, you loved Mall Rats, then this is good news. But he looks really thin and one wonders if he’s been ill.
The plot is pretty flimsy – in a hangliding mishap while on board a cruise liner, Alvin, the other two ‘munks, the Chippettes and Dave AND henchman Ian, all wash ashore a deserted island. The island has a rumbling, about-to-erupt volcano on it and the whole gang, plus deranged island inhabitant Zoe, must escape before they become lava fodder.
The funny bits
My kids have been reciting what they think are funny punchlines since yesterday and while I don’t think there was much to laugh at in the movie, I’m not the target audience. So, what did my kids find funny?
In a nutshell, the physical comedy had them laughing out loud. The zipline scene where they all fly down a zipline into a big treehouse, was high on the giggle factor.
Scenes between Jason Lee and David Cross (Ian, the villain) were funny in parts, particularly the scenes with lots of falling over and someone appearing to get hurt. Not sure why my kids found this funny, but they did!
The section where Simon takes on a daredevil Frenchman personality is amusing and had adults smiling while kids laughed at his exploits.
A character who lacked definition was the cast away Zoe. In an homage/rip-off of Cast Away, Zoe talked to her ‘friends’ a lot – a basketball, a tennis ball, a golf ball and a football. All were named for their brands, a la Wilson in the Hanks movie. And Zoe allegedly came to be on the island when her UPS plane crashed. Or something like that. I think Zoe was perhaps originally intended as a love interest for Jason Lee/Dave Seville, but not even a glimmer of that made it to the final print.
Which brings me to the weird bits.
The weird bits
In trying to appeal to the older AND younger markets simultaneously, the Chipmunk franchise tends to reach neither market convincingly. Many jokes, such as the Cast Away reference, and others such as the Lord of the Rings Gollum homage that pops up, are way over the heads of the younger audience. And not funny to the older audience.
All three Chipmunk movies have, thus far, been a constant regurgitation of pop culture references. These recycled ‘moments’ are hung on a hook that is a wafer thin plot that barely moves the story forward in any meaningful way.
For all that, the very simple formula of ripping off hit songs, copying popular punchlines that other writers/actors have created, and using pretty good CGI techniques, seems to resonate with the kids. Toy Story this movie ain’t. It lacks originality, creativity and anything remotely resembling a truly funny bit. And yet, continues to pull in the big bucks at the box office.
And my kids said this one was the best of the three, so it must be. *shrug* If you’re desperate for something to take the kids to and your kids liked 1 and 2, then by all means give this a whirl.
We saw the movie at Event Cinemas, Chermside. It was a freebie ticket offering to News Ltd staff from Fox Studios. There was free face-painting and balloon artists, which my kids thought were awesome. At one point I lost my e-ticket printout and was a bit panicky that we wouldn’t be admitted, crushing my children’s hopes. But the gentleman taking the tickets was happy to wave me and my tribe through (I later found my ticket on the floor in the car). A huge thank-you to the gate-ticket guy!
Also, a colleague and her three kids, plus her sisters’ kids (they were eight kids in total) accidentally went into the wrong theatre and didn’t figure it out for about 20 minutes that they were watching a movie and not an extended preview. The manager at Event Cinemas graciously offered to let them watch Puss in Boots that same day for free!
Taking the kids to the movies in this country is just about the most expensive anywhere in the world. As a result cinema staff and cinemas in general cop a lot of bashing. Most of the time, based on cost alone, I’d say deserved.
But as I’m one of those who happily hands out the brick bats at a moment’s notice, I’d also like to hand out the laurels where earned. And here they were earned. The staff were friendly, courteous and accommodating. Thanks guys!