From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel - C-

Rated PG for some mild rude humor, 90 minutes

Unmemorable, flat "Chipmunks" sequel nothing to squeak about

Two years ago a new, updated CG version of "Alvin and the Chipmunks" was released; mildly charming, it apparently resonated with audiences (mostly adults who were fans of the old-school Chipmunks) and it became a huge, huge hit earning well over $200 million in the U.S. alone and over $350 million worldwide, which fully explains the unnecessary new film. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" is nothing new: lots of singing and hijinks from the 'munks, and though the music is fun, this dumbed-down, excruciatingly overlong time waster of a sequel will make you pine for the best part of the movie: the ending.

Alvin (voice of Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) are now pop music superstars, touring the world over with their friend and new manager, Dave Seville (Jason Lee). When a stage accident puts Dave in the hospital in Paris, Dave's slacker man-boy cousin Toby ("Chuck's" Zachary Levi) looks after them, sending them off to school at Dave's request. They eventually meet up with three female chipmunk sisters known as the Chipettes: Brittany (Christina Applegate), Eleanor (Amy Poehler) and Jeanette (Anna Faris), who become the competition when they enter the school music contest, managed by evil music agent Ian (David Cross), who caused problems for the Chipmunks in the first movie.

The first "Alvin and the Chipmunks" was very thin plot-wise, but the stale, frivolous sequel wrings every unfunny, dumb idea out of the formula (pratfalls and farts will only get you so far), and stretched to an unbelievably long 90 minutes makes it feel worse than it really is. That's not to say that some of the songs are fun and energetically performed, and the addition of the Chipettes is also a good idea - their version of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" is the main highlight - it's just everything else is so painfully uninteresting that even the young ones may become restless. The flat, unpolished direction from "Hill Street Blues" actress-turned-director Betty Thomas doesn't really help, and the veteran director has had better luck with such films as the first "Dr. Doolittle" and the Howard Stern biopic "Private Parts" a dozen years ago.

"My Name is Earl's" Lee had a bigger role in the first, is seen just for a few minutes this time out, long enough to scream "Alvin!" a few times. Levi's flat, inexperienced comic skills are obvious given that he's essentially impersonating Lee, which makes you question how his TV show "Chuck" became such a hit. Even the normally droll Wendie Malick of TV's "Just Shoot Me" is wasted in a bit role as the school principal (it appears the casting shortlist for the humans only included those from current or defunct NBC comedies).

Long, McCartney and Gubler along with Faris, Poehler and Applegate, voice the chipmunks, but you don't know who's who since all the squeaky voices really sound the same and even worse, none of them, even pop singer McCartney, don't sing the songs (all covers of pop hits), which are the movie's best parts. Character actor Cross is back from the first film and the best of the human actors, trying in vain to give the "Squeakuel" some much-needed energy and fun, but the script gives him little to do except to stumble around the chipmunks.

In a nutshell, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" could've been smarter, funnier and shorter, but given its status as a cash-generating sequel, that's not a big surprise. The kids may enjoy it, but as a parent/adult, give yourself the real gift this Christmas and find something better to do or see.