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Alvin and the Chipmunks

In this redo of the classic cartoon, Alvin and the Chipmunks doesn't embarrass itself too much. It has its fun moments, especially when those little guys sing "Funky Town."


If you are already a fan of Alvin, Theodore and Simon, you're set. But if you are more a Chip and Dale fan (just love those cute little British accents), Alvin and the Chipmunks might win you over--if only for the duration of the film. In this updated scenario, the three chipmunks leave the forest and head towards L.A., where they meet down-on-his-luck songwriter Dave Seville (Jason Lee). Invading Dave's house, scaring the bejeesus out of him by talking to him and making a right mess of everything, the boys finally reveal their true talent: They can sing in high pitch-perfect voices. This is just the inspiration Dave needs after years of trying to sell a song to his old college buddy, Ian Hawk (David Cross), now a record mogul. He writes the song, "Christmas Don't Be Late" for them, and the boys becomes overnight sensations. I guess, all a songwriter needs to be successful is to team up with a trio of singing chipmunks.


Jason Lee hasn't had as much success with his film career as his TV career--Stealing Harvard vs. My Name Is Earl? No contest. But lately, his film choices have gravitated towards the kiddie fair, having voiced Underdog in a redo of that cartoon--and now as the human father figure Dave to chipmunks Alvin and the gang. He's good at being milquetoast-y, doesn't seem to be embarrassed at all conversing with CGI rodents, and screams the trademark, "ALVIN!" with confidence. The generally offbeat Cross (TV's Arrested Development) also adds a wacky element to the proceeding as the oily Ian Hawk, a typical mogul who just wants to earn the almighty buck and doesn't care if he is running his little moneymaking machines into the ground with tours, promotional events, etc. And as for the chipmunks themselves, the only celebrity voice is Justin Long (Live Free or Die Hard) as the mischievous Alvin. I'm thinking they digitally enhanced Long's voice to make it that high.


As far as these retro cartoons-turned-updated CGI feature films of late, Alvin and the Chipmunks is probably one of the better efforts. Based on the '80s cartoon series from creator Ross Bagdasarian, director Tim Hill (Spongebob Squarepants) keeps things simple, incorporates the computer-generated chipmunks well within the live action and stages some hip hoppin' musical sets. You might actually start tapping your toes as the pint-sized rodents on speed rock out on stage. Or maybe not. The point is Alvin and the Chipmunks does the classic cartoon proud and those old fans shouldn't be disappointed, while a new, younger legion of Chipmunk fans should be generated (I can see the new Saturday morning cartoon now). Just be prepared to listen to those high-pitched voices belting out top 20 songs from your kids' iPods.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.