Let me begin by saying that I really didn't care much for the 2007 live-action feature film, "Alvin and the Chipmunks," based on the beloved singing critters from my youth. Often I find that if I thought a movie was completely horrible to begin with, than chances are I'm not going to like it's sequel. However, I have been proven wrong with the new film "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel." Now don't get me wrong, I don't exactly think it was the greatest movie ever made but I did like it and for a kids movie it really does hit all the right beats. You can tell that a comedy-pro like Betty Thomas has stepped into direct and she and her team have completely saved the franchise in my opinion. Lets be honest, this film is not going to win any awards, but given the depth of kids movies available this holiday season, "The Squeakquel," is one film that will delight children and not cause adults to want to slit their wrists while watching the film. The script is decent and the acting is very funny and will make you laugh especially the absolutely hilarious David Cross. TV's "Chuck," Zachary Levi, who takes over for actor Jason Lee who is awkwardly absent throughout most of the film proves that he does have what it takes to anchor a big screen comedy like this. But it's the voice performances of the films female stars, Christina Applegate, Amy Poehler and Anna Farris, as the Chipettes, the Chipmunks female counterparts that will completely steal the movie and steal your heart.
The film begins not long after the end of the last movie as we see that the Chipmunks are still a rock n' roll sensation and playing a benefit concert in Paris, France. During he show, while Alvin is showing off his musical skills their fearless leader, Dave Seville once again played by Jason Lee, is injured and the boys are forced to go home to the states without him. Soon the Chipmunks return home where they meet Dave's Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten) who will be taking care of them while Dave is recovering, however when Aunt Jackie accidentally falls down a flight of stairs, Dave's lazy-gamer cousin Toby played by Zachary Levi is forced to take care of the furry critters. It was important to Dave that the boys go to high school and learn to have normal lives but they don't exactly fit in with the other kids right away. Eventually Alvin's winning personality wins over the jocks and they ask him to joins the football team, which begins to put a tear in his relationship with his brothers. The school Principle played by the delightful Wendie Malick is a closet-fan of the Chipmunks and asks the boys to compete in a "battle-of-the-bands" type contest to win $25,000 to save the schools music program but Alvin's other activities begin to jeopardize their chances. Meanwhile, Ian Hawke played by the ridiculously funny David Cross, still bitter from his last encounter with the Chipmunks and down on his luck has the best day of his life when he opens a package containing the Chipettes, Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor played by the charming and funny Christina Applegate, Anna Faris and Amy Poehler, respectively.
Hawke is more than happy to sign the girls up but there is one problem ... he was fired from his record label after the Chipmunks left him so Hawke decides to enroll them in the same high school as the boys as their new competition. The girls are more than happy to meet the boys, who they secretly have crushes on, however Hawke has filled their minds with negative thoughts about their male counterparts. Hawke demands that the Principle of the school hold a band-off to see which band should compete in the contest. When Alvin doesn't show up because he had a football game it forces his brothers to forfeit and it tears a riff between the three. Unaware of Hawke's evil ways the girls begin to become weary of him when he tells them to skip the contest because he has booked them a better gig opening for Brittany Spears at the Staples Center. When the girls refuse to let their school down Hawke kidnaps them and it's up to Alvin to redeem him self to his brothers and save the girls from Ian. Once Alvin triumphs he, his brothers and the girls join forces to win the contest and save the music program. All the while, Toby is learning the meaning of family and responsibility and is able to win the affection of his high school crush, now a teacher at the school. Dave returns home just in time to see the kids win the contest and find out that Alvin has told the girls that they can now live with them. The film ends with Dave yelling his trademark, "ALLLLVINNN!!"
The acting is all very good in this movie when you consider that most of the actors, especially David Cross and Zachary Levi were acting by themselves. Both actors did a very good job with that and made the interaction with the CGI seamless. Levi carries his scenes well in the film and is very believable as the nerdy-videogame obsessed Toby and shows an impressive talent for physical comedy looking like a young Chevy Chase in some sequences. Jason Lee is also fine in his very limited role, which begs the question, if he was barely going to be in it why did he bother at all? I don't know the answer to that one, I can only speculate but I'm glad he was able to at least appear in bookend form because it did help tie the movie and the franchise together. But David Cross, who will forever be Tobias on "Arrested Development" to me absolutely, steals every scene he is in this film. His interaction with the Chipettes is priceless and keep an eye out for his final scene in the film where he is forced to try to trick the Staples Center audience into thinking he is all three of the Chipettes himself. The actresses who voiced the Chipettes are all exceptional comedic actresses and each one is perfectly cast in their roles. Again, their interaction with Cross and each other is amazing considering that they never worked together on set and I dare you not to fall in love with the Chipettes after you see them sing Beyonce's "Single Ladies" (Put A Ring On It). It's adorable and the kids in the theater when I saw it all went nuts.
Ultimately, the stars of this film are the singing animals and the CGI is really well done. Editor Matt Friedman earns special credit for cutting it all together and making it look so real. I was impressed with the script's strong structure written by John Vitti and the simple story, Chipmunks go to school, meet girl Chipmunks, villain returns, defeat villain and have a happy ending was just perfect for this movie. However, director Betty Thomas deserves the real credit here. She took a terrible first film and made a sequel that not only will save the franchise but it's something everyone who worked on it can be proud of. It's a smart, fun movie for kids with a great message for young girls, which you don't see all that often in kid's movies today. One last thing, for old fans of the Chipmunks there are several hidden Easter Eggs to look out for including the number address of the Seville house being the year the Chipmunks were actually created, 1958, and the piano in the house in the film is the actual piano that creator Ross Bagadasarian used to write the original Grammy Award winning Chipmunks songs. The bottom line is that this is a decent, well thought-out and put together, fun family film for the holidays that I believe children and parents will both enjoy alike.
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel is out December 21, 2009.