Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
When we volunteered to take kids to this, their parents shook their heads and said sarcastically, ‘Good luck … so we assume you can’t have seen the others in the series?’ No, we hadn’t, but unprepossessing DVD cases at budget prices didn’t look inviting. The kids had to see this third one in the series because they were into the Burger King promotion of plastic chipmunk figurines and jungle buildings. The figurines include the three female Chipettes, one of which (whom? No.) is called Brittany. Not promising. We spent fifteen minutes trying to persuade them to see Puss in Boots instead but they were adamant. We truly expected it to be dire. My memories of David Seville & The Chipmunks go back to the late 1950s novelty records, with producer Seville playing around with tape speed and pitch. David Seville’s real name was Ross Bagdasarian, and he died in 1972. His son revived them in 1980, and revived the animated TV show which led to the film series. The ‘real person’ (Jason Lee) in charge of the six animated chipmunks in the film is called David, and is addressed once as ‘Seville.’
I’m also going through a phase despairing of the constant Disneyfication of animals as cute little humans, much preferring the red in tooth and claw aspect of Tom & Jerry (or Itchy and Scratchy). And these chipmunks are CUTE in all caps. Yukkily so.
So what a pleasant surprise to find this film was a lot of fun. The art of animation on top of live footage has come a long way since Bedknobs and Broomsticks or Darby O’Gill and The Little People. The music is bright and bouncy and catchy. I’d also hoped for the adult jokes as in the Shrek franchise, and though they don’t come thick and fast, the character of Zoe (Jenny Slate), the girl who’s spent nine years stranded on the desert island, is very funny.
Zoe on jungle bridge with basket of chipmunks
The megasize Carnival cruise ship sequence at the start was confirming my worst fears (huge resort ships are my idea of hell), and I rather hoped for a shipwreck on a scale to dwarf the Titanic sinking. Sadly the chipmunks don’t get ‘shipwrecked’ at all. They accidentally get whisked away on a hang glider and end up on the obligatory desert island.
Once the chipmunks (and David and Ian) got to the desert island it looked up. The trailers before the film advertised the forthcoming Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and I have to say the SFX island with its smoking volcano looks very, very similar. Suspiciously so. But the inevitable volcanic explosion was actually exciting even with pixels rather than people threatened by the sparks. The characterisation … did I write that? … of Simon the nerdy one who gets bitten by a poison spider and turns French as Simone is funny. And the spider bites, removing all fear and inhibition, were Zoe’s problem too. She’d been bitten twice and day for years, and lived with a menagerie of balls … golf, tennis and medicine balls … that she thought were alive. Ian (David Cross), the music biz impresario reduced to being dressed up as a pelican on the cruise ship, also has great funny lines.
Yukkily cute … they look better when they’re moving
We came out feeling good, and had to take our charges to Burger King for a Happy Meal and two more figurines (Alvin and Jeanette). As to the comment that only someone who had not seen the first two would try the third, the kids (aged 8 and 6) assured us that Chipwrecked was easily the best of the series.