December 24, 2009

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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (PG)
Alvin’s family tries and fails to run a legitimate business from their Lake Tahoe compound while in flashbacks we learn about Papa Chipmunk’s rise to mafia Don in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, a tragic, Shakespearean part two in this saga.

Or maybe that’s The Godfather, Part II and in this movie the guy from Chuck serves as a disinterested guardian to the Chipmunks while Dave (Jason Lee) is away and also the ’munks meet the Chipettes.

After Dave is injured in an “AAAAAL-VINNNNN!” incident while the Chipmunks (still in animated form, moving around a live-action world) are on tour, he decides to send the boys home while he recuperates and enroll them in school so they can have a normal childhood (chipmunkhood?). Dave thinks they will be in the care of Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten), but after she is herself injured (“AAAAAAL-VINNNN!”) the boys are left with her grandson Toby (Zachary Levi), a slacker who spends most of his days playing video games. Alvin (voice of Justin Long) and Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) are OK as lone wolves, but Theodore (Jesse McCartney) misses the structure Dave brings to their lives. Particularly when they enter high school and Alvin decides to run with the bullies.

Meanwhile, Ian Hawke (David Cross), villain from the previous movie, is nutters and living, Phantom of the Opera-style, in the basement of his former record company. Spending most of his days mumbling about revenge to rats who don’t respond, he happens upon a FedEx package containing exactly what he’s been hoping for — another trio of singing animals. In this case, female chipmunks whom he quickly names the Chipettes — Alvin-ish Brittany (Christina Applegate), Theodore-ish Eleanor (Amy Poehler) and Simon-ish Jeanette (Anna Faris). He quickly concocts an evil scheme to bring down Alvin and the gang and the sweet, following-their-dream Chipettes don’t realize they’re just pawns in Ian’s plans for destruction.

Like an aggressive sinus headache or a particularly effective alarm clock, the Chipmunks and their female counterparts send laser-like zaps of pain straight into my brain. It’s the kind of pain that makes you want to squinch your eyes and put a cool compress on your forehead, maybe lie down for a while. The antics here, as with the antics in the last movie, are pratfall-heavy and feature bathroom humor and the kind of jokes that smartass kids always make in sitcoms. Interspersed, there are songs (“Single Girls (Put a Ring on It),” “You Spin Me Round”), sung at double-speed squeak, like that “The Chipmunk Song” torture device that is inescapable this time of year.

But me and my suffering aren’t the point here and if you feel the same way and have children then you’ll just have to bring ear plugs and maybe a leftover Kahlua nip to get through it because kids seem to love this stuff. Fart jokes, chipmunks getting knocked over, gross-out moments and all — the kids in the theater I saw this movie at giggled and guffawed and all but slapped their knees at the goofiness. And frankly, as an elementary schooler watching the old Chimpunks cartoons, I loved this stuff too — even if I can’t remember why anymore. And even if I couldn’t always take top 40 songs sung in nails-on-chalkboard squeak, I didn’t hate this movie. The Chipmunks are adult-irritating but loveable characters and, after months sans Chuck, I was happy to see Zachary Levi again.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel won’t give you 90some minutes of peace and quiet but it will give your kids some holiday glee and isn’t bringing joy to other people what the season’s all about? C+

Rated PG for some mild rude humor. Directed by Betty Thomas and written by Jon Vitti, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (from characters by Ross Bagdasarian), Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is distributed by 20th Century Fox.