The Austin Chronicle

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Rated PG, 86 min. Directed by Walt Becker. Voices by Justin Long, Anna Faris, Kaley Cuoco, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Christina Applegate. Starring Jason Lee, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Tony Hale, Josh Green, Bella Thorne.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Dec. 18, 2015

Sometimes you pull the short straw. Sometimes you have to take one for the team. Sometimes you just have to run in and jump on the proverbial grenade to save your fellow critics the horror of being scarred by something as apathetic and brainless as Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. Those were my thoughts as I waited for the lights to dim in a kiddie-packed theatre on a dreary Saturday morning. And while I was familiar with the adventures of songwriter Dave Seville (Lee) and his trio of harmonizing rodents – Alvin (Long), Simon (Gubler), and Theodore (McCartney) – this was my first foray into this latest incarnation of a franchise that dates back to the late Fifties.

So what fresh hell is this? It seems Dave has become a record producer, and is off to Miami with his girlfriend Shira (Williams-Paisley) for the release party of the new record from Ashley (Thorne), some vague pop star. But Dave doesn’t trust those chipmunks on their own, so he enlists Shira’s jerky, dudebro son Miles (Green) to babysit. When Alvin discovers evidence that Dave may be asking Shira to marry him in Miami, they hit the road (well, first the airport) to try and stop the proposal. They run afoul of buffoonish air marshal Benson (Hale, ill-served as a marionette of uninspired slapstick, here taking over from David Cross, who was the foil in the three previous films. Is there some Arrested Development casting conspiracy here? Is Michael Cera next?). Benson pursues Alvin and the gang through the South as they make mischief and butcher songs with their trademark helium-pitched vocal aesthetic (I could have gone my whole life without hearing them cover DJ Snake/Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” but alas, I am now marked). The humor mostly adheres to the usual fart jokes that every third-grader loves, but then what to make of an inexplicable cameo from trash-cinema king John Waters, and a subsequent joke about his dogshit-eating masterpiece Pink Flamingos? (Crickets in the theatre when that one dropped, btw.) As directed by Walt Becker (who, it must be stated, unleashed onto the world the sad, middle-aged actor ennui of both Wild Hogs and Old Dogs), Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip has sporadic laughs for the under-10 set and absolutely nothing for the poor parents sitting next to them. I would like to have added that the film is wholly forgettable, but these images are scorched on my retinas, and I will forever twitch when someone nearby screams that fateful cry: “Alvin!”

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