There are many mysteries surrounding Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. But the biggest one is this: What's it doing here? Was anyone clamoring for this movie?
Did someone in Hollywood get the original Alvin and the Chipmunks movie — based on a 40-year-old comedy record by the real Dave Seville and a subsequent animated TV show — confused with The Godfather and green-light a sequel?
For the answer, look at the box office of the first movie. Even though one New York critic compared seeing the original flick to "being hit over the head with a mallet every 10 seconds for 90 minutes," audiences ate it up. The movie, made for about $60 million, took in more than $360 million worldwide, making it the most successful family film released in 2007.
So now there's a "squeakquel" … and another head scratcher: How do you make a movie with Anna Faris, Amy Poehler, David Cross, Jason Lee and Wendie Malick — some of the funniest people on the planet — and not give them anything genuinely funny to say or do?
Part of the problem is the script, which puts the singing rodents (voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney) — who became global superstars in the first film — into a high school setting for no apparent reason. It does set up a sing-off contest that they must win to save the school's music program.
The contest, which becomes a rivalry with a group of female chipmunks (the Chipettes, with voices of Faris, Poehler and Christina Applegate), provides the movie with what should be a killer soundtrack. You get everything from the Kinks' You Really Got Me to Corinne Bailey Rae's Put Your Records On to Beyoncé's Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It). Only trouble is, the vocals are pitched about three octaves higher than your ears can stand.
Otherwise, it's as if the three screenwriters had a clipboard checklist. Fart joke? Check. Gross food joke? Dodgeball gag? Cross-dressing gag? Check, check, check. Oh, wait, we forgot the crotch punch — here ya go, David Cross. Thanks for taking one for the team. Oh, yeah, let's tack on morals about resisting peer pressure and the importance of family. Done!
Their one attempt at being edgy is a totally inappropriate joke about pole dancing that fortunately will go over the heads of most kids.
The other problem is that Lee (My Name Is Earl), who plays the exasperated Dave, gets sidelined by a freak accident (caused by Alvin) early in the movie. For the rest of the flick he literally phones in his performance — from a hospital bed in Paris.
Instead, the chipmunks are left in the care of a relative of Dave's, a video game nut named Toby, played by Zachary Levi (Chuck) as a guy with all the charisma of an unplugged Wii.
One of the co-producers recommended parents bring a set of earplugs. It's not a bad suggestion. After all, this movie is not aimed at adults. The two kids I saw it with didn't seem to laugh a lot, but afterward they both said they liked it. Fortunately for me, they did not ask to see it again.
Sherry Robinson can be reached at (727) 893-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org.