DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS

Thursday 25 December 2008


Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) dir. Tim Hill
Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, (voice of) Justin Long


Guest Review By Greg Klymkiw

As far as family-friendly Christmas-themed movies go, “Alvin and the Chipmunks” is never going to be considered a perennial favourite in the mold of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “A Christmas Carol” or “Miracle on 34th Street”, but it does provide solid entertainment for the kiddies (lots o’ laughs from anyone 10 or under) and mild entertainment for anyone older (lots o’ smiles and a few chuckles) – especially anyone old enough to have sentimental memories of the “original” Alvin hit songs and TV series from the late 50s/early 60s and the 80s animated revival.

Alvin, to the uninitiated, is the head of a squeaky-pitched trio of singing chipmunks who are pals with the loser songwriter David Seville who hits the big time when he stumbles upon the furry ear-shattering musical stylists. Seville, in the original cartoons, spends much of his time chipmunk-sitting his charges and keeping those pesky, but warm-hearted little songsters from getting into all manner of troublesome hijinx. He also bellows out the immortal, stern cry, “A-a-a-a-a-a-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-vin!!!!!” whenever he discovers something is amiss and realizes that it’s probably the work of the troublemaking-est chipmunk of them all.

The 2007 big screen rendering of these characters, is pretty much more of the same, only with live-action “adult” characters and digitally animated fur-balls. Within the confines of a simple, predictable feature-length tale, Dave (the mildly offensive, barely palatable Jason Lee) discovers the chipmunks, becomes their surrogate Dad and eventually loses them to smarmy Ian (a very funny David Cross), a dastardly music promoter. The sleaze ball, in familiar fashion, exploits the chipmunks, screws Dave, but gets his ultimate and well-deserved comeuppance when goodness prevails and all are reunited in grand fashion.

It’s quite the emotional whirlwind – for seven-year-olds, mostly.

What makes the movie relatively agreeable to less-discriminating adults (and those, like me, who should know better, but have a soft spot for squeaky-voiced chipmunks) is the genuinely funny and, at times, endearing musical numbers. In fact, that insane, insipid, and utterly insidious “classic” Chipmunks Christmas song “Christmas Don’t Be Late” will never leave my brain. Initially left behind in the fog of my wayward childhood, the song has been reintroduced to me by this movie and is now emblazoned, carved, burned and branded into my very soul. My God, I feel like Barbara Steele at the beginning of “Black Sunday” who receives the mark of Satan from a hooded executioner. My psyche has been thoroughly scarred forever by those trilling chipmunks. The fur-balls and their squealing, while never at the forefront of my thoughts, are lodged in there like an admittedly oxymoronic migraine of pleasure.

In case you’ve forgotten the lyrics, let me inflict them upon you. The tune will come ever so quickly to you and remain there forever. Besides, I shouldn’t have to suffer alone:

Christmas, Christmas time is near
Time for toys and time for cheer
We've been good, but we can't last
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast
Want a plane that loops the loop
Me, I want a hula hoop
We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas, don't be late

The brainchild behind the chipmunks was the late actor and songwriter Ross Bagdasarian and frankly, there’s no denying his impact upon popular American culture. As a young man, Bagdasarian appeared in the original (and legendary) Eddie Dowling Broadway stage production of William Saroyan’s Pulitzer-prizewinning play “The Time of Your Life”. Bagdasarian and Saroyan, cousins and fellow Armenian-Americans shared a love of the arts and most importantly, sentimentality and whimsy. (In fact, the cousins actually co-wrote the song “Come on-a My House” which became such a huge hit for the legendary songstress Rosemary Clooney.) Alas, unlike his more celebrated older cousin Saroyan, Bagdasarian won no Oscars or Pulitzers. He did, however, snafu a couple of Grammy awards, and in so doing, entertained and delighted millions of children (and a few of those aforementioned adults who should know better).

This particular legacy, which is nothing to be sneezed at, acquits itself very nicely in this fluffy, harmless feature. And for those inclined, the two-disc DVD version includes a handy-dandy digital copy of the movie suitable for iPods and iPhones. This is especially handy for chipmunk-obsessed kids on long car rides. Just make sure they’re watching with earphones so the journey can be chipmunk-free for the driver.

So feel free to stuff your little nipper’s stocking with the version that includes the digital copy. Whilst Alvin and his chipmunks yearn for a Christmas that does not come late, the rest of us can yearn for a Christmas that comes as early as possible and dissipates as quickly so that life, in all its splendour, can move on.

And maybe, just maybe, with the kids plugged into iPods, it can be a peaceful Christmas for all.

And to all, a goodnight.

“Alvin and the Chipmunks” is available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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