THE SCREENING ROOM
By Bill KallaySome things we do for our kids because we love them. Some things we do for our kids because we want them to stop pestering us. Sometimes we make sacrifices by listening to Justin Bieber over and over again, with a tiny bribe to stop the pestering.
"Okay, I'll listen to Justin Bieber one more time, but I get to listen to NPR next."
It's a battle between parents and children that has been going on for centuries, or at least for the last month in my house. Which brings us the phenomenon of "Alvin."
"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" is available on DVD and Blu-ray. This is a review of the DVD.
I took my daughter to see the first "Alvin" movie and came out of it surprised that I enjoyed it. I couldn't really say I knew which chipmunk was which, despite the "A" on Alvin. Their speedy voices pretty much sounded the same. But I found the story involving Jason Lee and the little 'munks was charming enough. It, like the movie "Garfield" (2004), had enough charm and human interaction with the CG character(s) to work.
I can see why kids love the Chipmunks. When I was little, the original Christmas song had me in stitches and I probably thought there were real chipmunks singing. Amazing how a simple novelty song has spawned cartoons and that big budget movie. Speedy voices are always funny. Three years later, we have the "Squeakquel." This movie made a lot of money and my daughter adores it. So it can't be that bad, can it?
It's always a bad sign when the lead actor, in this case Jason Lee who plays Dave, is taken out of the movie after an accident. He does occasionally show up, but he's mostly used as minor character. I guess Lee had other things to do. Instead, we get his cousin Toby (Zachary Levi), who takes his place as the chipmunk's guardian. The film also brings back a watered down "Uncle" Ian, played by David Cross, as the villain. And there is the addition of the Chipettes, the female versions of the Chipmunks. It all adds up to a thin movie that lacks the heart and charm of the original.
Though the original film wasn't a masterpiece, its core of Dave warming up to take care of the Chipmunks worked. They were portrayed as innocent children who got caught up in mischief and didn't mean any harm. Dave reluctantly took them under his wing, but realized he could be their "dad." The "Squeakquel" really doesn't have much of that. Now the 'munks are in high school where they're introduced to stock high school jocks, and where every high school student looks like they walked out of a show on the "CW." Zachary Levi does a good job in trying to pick up where Lee left off, but his character is essentially a lesser version of Dave. Betty Thomas can be a serviceable director (i.e. "The Brady Bunch" movie), but sometimes her movies seem to run on auto-pilot.
The Chipmunks aren't much different than before. Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) keep the action going. Thankfully they're not annoying to watch. It's just a shame that the script wasn't stronger. The Chipettes (Amy Poehler, Anna Faris & Christina Applegate) are cute, but they're predictable in how they interact with the Chipmunks.
There is one thing that needs to be mentioned about this movie, and it deals with the DVD supplied by Fox. The studio does an excellent job on the Blu-ray discs they've sent me for review. They're probably the same discs that go to retailers and have already been quality checked. The DVDs, however, are screeners. Part of the reviews here on this site involve picture and sound quality. For some reason on the studio's DVD review discs, sometimes the picture quality becomes terribly pixilated and soft. This makes it both difficult to watch the movie and evaluate its picture. I'm not sure if it's a anti-piracy code within the DVD that causes this pixilation, but it is distracting. I'm hoping that Fox will send me the same standard DVDs and Blu-ray that consumers can buy. This makes the movies a lot easier to watch.
Reviewing a movie like "The Squeakquel" is difficult because on one end, it's not going to matter what I say. Kids love movies like this. On the other hand, even family entertainment can be smart, funny, and memorable as "Fantastic Mr. Fox" so cleverly demonstrated.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved.