Alvin and the Chipmunks Review

It is hilarious that Dave Seville (Jason Lee) is mildly shocked by the talking chipmunks that invade his living room. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, he kicks them out of his house, where they begin singing on a tree stump. Dave opens the door stating, “That’s amazing!”

Really? Talking chipmunks you toss out the door, but singing chipmunks are amazing? That is just awful writing in a script by Jon Vitti and Will McRobb, even when not looking at this movie through critical eyes. Admittedly, no critic goes into a live action update of Alvin and the Chipmunks with high hopes, but this update has some weird undertones.

Despite living in the forest all of their lives, Alvin apparently knows how to murder someone and conceal the evidence. That is a little more than general creepiness, and a far cry from the other gags, such as the Chipmunks stashing food away for winter inside the house. Some fart jokes and poop eating are there too, and again, it is a stretch to get there from murder.

There is little doubt kids will love this, murdering psychopath Chipmunks aside. Right from the start, the Chipmunks are dominant, their perky high-pitched voices belting out their version of Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day.” They sing all of the popular hits of 2007, plus a completely unnecessary remake of their mind-numbingly painful Christmas tune.

Despite a general lack of distinct personalities, someone thought it would be important to hire Jesse McCartney (Theodore), Justin Long (Alvin), and Matthew Gubler (Simon) to perform the voices. Never mind you could never figure out which actor is which after being, uh, “chimpified” (™), Theodore is the only one that stands out, and only because of his height prior to putting on their colored clothing.

On a slightly more editorial rant, there is also the issue with making these characters hyper-real. Their detailed fur, perfect shadows, and intricate lighting techniques are impressive, but why the need for elaborate effects? No one is going to believe these things exist. Why not try for a blending of traditional 2-D animation and live action? It would have given these characters additional life, while preventing the oddly choppy animation (such as the dishwasher shower) from sticking out.

Regardless of how it was done, it was produced, it made millions, and everyone had to suffer through a sequel. To be fair, Alvin and the Chipmunks is perfect fodder for its target audience, although entirely unnecessary as the cartoon series more or less delivered the same material, and likely for 10% of this movie’s budget.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

Fox delivers a stunner in this AVC encode, one brimming with detail. Environments are lush, especially outside Dave’s home where countless plants are showcased, each clearly defined with no noticeable flaws. Inside the home, various objects, products, and furniture are stunningly rendered with consistent sharpness. Textures on couches, pillows, wood countertops, and the towel the Chipmunks use as a blanket are wonderful.

The CG critters themselves show off some crisp fur, each strand delivered without aliasing or other artifact. Colors are remarkably vivid, with bold, saturated primaries. The supermarket is a jaw-dropper, the fresh fruit and food containers brimming with color. The movie typically carries a warm hue, although flesh tones are accurate. Black levels, while marginally inconsistent, generate tremendous depth and dimensionality, minus any crush.

A slightly hot contrast can blot out some detail, although this is rare and intended to keep the film bright for the young ones. Even in the mid-range though, this transfer produces some amazingly rendered facial textures. Some softness and a marginal level of noise (along with the wavering blacks) are just enough to knock this down slightly.

Video ★★★★☆ 

A DTS-HD effort from Fox has moments. Obviously, the music is lively, with aggressive surround bleed and beefy low end. Fidelity is superb despite the ear-piercing high pitched singing.

There is a great moment where Simon gets caught in a fan, spinning around the soundfield with each speaker catching his yells for help. A premiere for their new CD is loaded with clapping onlookers and an immersive echo. The various shenanigans the Chipmunks get into around the home provide various discrete effects in the appropriate channel.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Chip Chip Hooray is the first of a meager two featurettes, this one focused on the history of the characters. Hitting the Harmony looks at the music and remaking it for a modern audience. Together, these two pieces run 21-minutes. A few trailers are left.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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