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Alvin and the Chipmunks crash on the rocks of tired gags

Alvin and Simon in a scene from "The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked"

1 out of 4 stars


It all began with The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late), the hit novelty single written and recorded by Ross Bagdasarian Sr. in 1958 that sold millions and won three Grammy awards. While the song has endured, Alvin and The Chipmunks and the female trio The Chipettes (created in 1983) have been gathering more "nuts" (nominations and awards for recordings, TV shows, specials, etc.) and, most recently, chewing up the scenery in three live action-CGI family films.

Chip-Wrecked follows the highly annoying (for grown-ups) yet astoundingly successful kid-targeted features Alvin and The Chipmunks (2007) and The Squeakquel (2009), continuing the misadventures of the rambunctious, helium-voiced singing and dancing rodents and their manager-surrogate father Dave Seville (Jason Lee) as they board a luxury liner for some much needed R&R before a major international pop music event.

Like the recent Adam Sandler dud Jack and Jill, a sizable chunk of Chip-Wrecked was shot on the newest ship in the fleet of a major cruise company – the ultimate in movie product placement!

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Writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (the Kung Fu Panda movies and previous Chipmunks flicks) trot out tired shipboard gags, with the rebellious Alvin (Justin Long) wreaking havoc and the Chipettes wiggling their tails in a salsa smackdown against a trio of Jersey Shore-esque female passengers. Mike Mitchell, who directed Shrek Forever After, is on cruise control here – the smart move when you're at the helm of a massive pop culture franchise with many vested interests.

The comedic talents of Lee (star of TV's My Name Is Earl and a Kevin Smith movie vet) are pretty much unexploited in Chip-Wrecked. Same goes for those of David Cross ( Arrested Development), reprising his role as the Chipmunks' nemesis Ian Hawke, a former music exec now slumming it as the ship's mascot and wearing his worn-out yellow bird costume at all times.

The hang glider Hawke swoops around in is put to use after Alvin commandeers a kite and accidentally heads out to sea with the Chipmunks and Chipettes clinging to the tail – the kite's tail, that is. They find refuge on a deserted tropical island where there are not nearly enough coconut jokes. David and Ian, who has made no secret of his desire for revenge, soar after them, wash up on the same island and begin searching for chipmunk tracks.

Simon – the brainy, shy chipmunk – accidentally gets a hit of local venom that changes him into a daring romantic who, inexplicably, starts speaking with a French accent. Very not funny. The chipmunks soon run into the loopy Zoe (SNL featured performer Jenny Slate), a treasure-seeking castaway who introduces them to the "others," a collection of various sports balls with drawn-on faces. The obvious nods to Castaway, Lost and other pop culture references are barely worth a grin.

When the island's active volcano starts to rumble, humans and chipmunks must put aside their differences and save each other before they all get roasted like so many Christmas chestnuts.

Full of squeaky-voiced renditions of dozens of old and recent hit songs, Chip-Wrecked will entertain youngsters – at least those not frightened of exploding mountains and weird adults —but grownups will find themselves wishing these chipmunks had gone into deep winter hibernation instead of making another movie.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked

  • Directed by Mike Mitchell
  • Screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
  • Starring Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate and the voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate
  • Classification: G
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