The Austin Chronicle

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Rated PG, 92 min. Directed by Tim Hill. Voices by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney. Starring Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, Jane Lynch.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 14, 2007

What's it all about, Alvin? Apparently it's about rebranding a musty old comic conceit for a whole new generation of proto-Willards. The adenoidal animated vermin of Ross Bagdasarian Sr. and Jr. have arrived via CGI in this live-action update/companion to the Bagdasarian family's lengthy résumé of rodentia comicus-related phenomena, the pinnacle of which remains 1958's holiday novelty tune "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)." There were, to be sure, other points of interest in the careers of the chipmunk sibs – wiseacre Alvin, opthamologically challenged scholar Simon, and nutty cream puff Theodore – but like the diminutive, squeaky-voiced trio, they're not really all that high. I exclude from the Chipmunk Suck List – it should go without saying, but what the hell – the sneering Dada majesty that was 1980's Chipmunk Punk LP. The 'Munks were, by that time, hopelessly addicted to helium (in hindsight, clearly the crack of its day), although their cover versions of such first-wave punk icons as Tom Petty and, um, the Knack remain to this day in heavy rotation so long as the Earth keeps spinning. As for Hill's (SpongeBob SquarePants) Chipmunk tale, however, it's a strictly by-the-numbers affair, aimed in the most generic direction conceivable. Lee plays Dave, a well-intentioned but bumbling songwriter aided and abetted in life and love (and icky-sweet pop music) by My Three Chipmunks. Mr. Show's Cross is a duplicitous record mogul, who plays nice with Dave while conniving behind his back (boo!), and Richardson is the mutant-model-photographer-chick-thing Dave's all gooey on. Will true love prevail? Will Dave grow a backbone (and some real songwriting talent)? And most important, will Alvin, Simon, and Theodore survive this bland new form of chipmunk mania? They shoot rodents, don't they?

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