Adult-wise, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” directed by Betty Thomas, written by Jon Vitti, Jonathan Aibel, and Glenn Berger, offers an unoriginal setup for a movie. Take the Chipmunk franchise, trend-follow it with a movie prequel (or, ugh, a squeakquel), add a trio of female chipmunk-tweens, throw in some admittedly cute (it sounds better in French: mignonne) dance numbers, some clichéd predicaments, some tweenybopper romance (man and beast, though not with each other), and a thoroughly predictable ending.
Kid-wise, though, it’s a perfectly rendered 90 minutes of entertainment, a cross between Hannah Montana, American Bandstand, The Brady Bunch and PETA.
At the level of spectacle the film is not a little, um, spectacular. Especially the song and dance numbers of the Chipmunks, just back from a world tour (Dave ended up in the hospital: long story), of the Chipettes just Fedexed in, literally, to Los Angeles to cash in on the whole Brittany, Lindsay, Paris thing, and the grand finale, a rousing duet of both groups belting out “We are Family” that was so dang enthusiastically rendered that, with a little help from the kids in the audience, you couldn’t help tapping your feet, discretely, grown up-like.
Here tweenage angst coexists with getting amped up for the big football game, pranks, crushes, boy-bluster, girl-twitters, girls-going-gaga over little furry things, and a spiffily done musical competition hatched to save the school’s musical program from cultural extinction. You can see everything coming from a mile away but it’s so innocuous and innocent – how can you heap scorn on such adorable he’s and she’s? - that you don’t mind the foresight, much.
(As an aside, I entered the theatre as a couple that appeared to be - Gasp! - my age was asking for their money back. It seems Avatar’s 3-D effects made the woman want to vomit. A similar warning here: if you have problem with the loud and persistent high-pitched palaver that emits from the mouths of chipmunks, you might want to reconsider your choice of movie).
Thomas’ direction was energetic, if not a little frenetic. Thanks in no small part to the music, it kept churning melodically forward. The performances were well-done and at times not a little moving. After all, each generation has its Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy though, if memory serves me right, the Chipmunks were around back then, too, though not so realistically rendered, without such an undeniably bodacious set of pipes, and not so spot-on demographically targeted.
The voices were soothingly familiar and more than capable of carrying through the film’s un-taxing story lines. Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney while Eleanor, Jeanette, and Brittany were voiced by Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, and Christina Applegate. The principal and The Chipette’s manager were played by sit-com staples Wendie Malick and David Cross, and David Seville, Chipmunk impresario, was done by none other than “My Name is Earl’s” Jason Lee.