Directed by: Betty Thomas (John Tucker Must Die)
Starring: Zachary Levi, David Cross, Jason Lee, Justin Long (voice)
There’s something inherently comforting in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. It’s just as bad as I suspected, creating a sense that everything’s right with the world. If the movie had been better than expected, I’d have to start worrying about my mental faculties, and, worse, I’d fret for the sake of humanity.
The movie doesn’t stray far from the original’s blueprint. The chipmunks—Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler, (500) Days of Summer) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney)—remain huge pop stars, because people can’t seem to get enough high-pitched covers of generic pop songs (which is actually kind of believable). This translates into a bevy of agonizingly shrill musical numbers and the usual misadventures one can only expect from a trio of animated rodentia.
But don’t get into a dither, there are some differences afoot here. For one, The Squeakquel sees the Chipmunks heading off to high school, all the better to cash in on the High School Musical demographic (the theory being that tween girls can’t differentiate between Zac Efron and a chipmunk). There’s also the inclusion of the Chipettes, a female version of the Chipmunks, out to gain their own celebrity. Or at least with all these pants-less animals running around we’re told they’re female—my hope is we’re just setting up an elaborate Crying Game reference for part three.
The movie is also educational in that it shows what a difference good representation can do for an actor. Jason Lee, the de facto human star of the first film, is barely on-screen, since his character, Dave, ends up in traction due to some chipmunk-induced calamity. He’s instead replaced with Dave’s relative Toby (TV actor Zachary Levi), a slacker video-gamer geek, who’s included just to shoehorn in a sloppy, superfluous romantic sub-plot to pad the running time.
David Cross comes out worse than anyone. Not only is he as painfully and hopelessly awful, he also logs more screen time than he did in the first one. You’d think the man would know better. One Chipmunks movie is maybe excusable. I can’t imagine being seen in public after making the second one.
In a way, this Chipmunks film is a bit classier. Unlike the first movie, there’s a complete lack of chipmunk-droppings ingestion. Instead, we’ve graduated to gags involving Dutch Ovens. Now that’s what I call progress.
The whole mess is pretty dire. The Chipmunks’ voices and high jinks not only assault your intelligence and sensibilities, but you’re physical senses, too. The Squeakquel is such an all-encompassing waste that you spend the entire movie thinking it can’t sink any lower than it just did. But then something called Digger the NASCAR Gopher makes a cameo and you realize, oh yes, the bar can be lowered, and that Alvin, Simon and Theodore are just the rodents to do it. Rated PG for some mild rude humor.