David Cross was right to slander and shame Alvin and the Chipmunks’’ third instalment. But seeing the glimmers of hope in his eyes as he spirals around the screen as a children’s entertainment villain is far more thrilling than his stand-up comedy. More because Alvin and the Chipmunks have the nostalgia appeal and the many failings that come with it, but also because its ensemble cast is relatively impressive, its CGI an extraordinary achievement for the time and its chokehold on culture for the better part of a decade an equally terrifying and impressive feat of endurance. Director Tim Hill can be proud of offering this up to audiences and can be proud of the measure of influence he has had on film. None at all.
His problems with furry fan favourite characters found in Alvin and the Chipmunks carried over to his future works. Hop was just the same, musical animals and fluffy characters that children will buy merchandise of. It helps that Alvin and the Chipmunks were already established for a previous generation, who by now had squandered their chances of a happy, chipmunk-less life and now found themselves and their childhood put through the grinder. Horrifying appraisals of a previous generation are founded in Hill’s work here, with his poorly orchestrated puppeteering of chipmunks and Jason Lee.
The tears that form in the eyes, the tinnitus that rings through the ears and the fear of God instilled by first hearing those chipmunk voices after years away from them is a lucid feeling. It is one of those rare moments that will bring real, genuine torture into the forefront of the mind. Over ten years on and the voices seem rarer in pitch, sticking higher and higher into noises that can be referred to as ringing, rather than dialogue. Ruined to the point of not being able to recognise the voice of Justin Long, which was probably for his benefit more than anyone else. He has escaped any real scrutiny by masquerading his voice, so too have Matthew Grey Gubler and Jeny McCarthy. Cross and Lee, the long-suffering funny men, are no match for that though. They have nowhere to hide.
It is both surprising and worrying just how much of Alvin and the Chipmunks can be remembered. Annoying at the best of times, ignorant at the worst. Dave (Lee) is terrified of being late yet still has time to chat idly with the love interest character that just happens to live in the neighbourhood. Cameron Richardson is the long-suffering counterpart to Lee’s struggling leading role. Jon Vitti is responsible for the “story,” whatever that is. Alvin and the Chipmunks may as well string together comic pieces of awful chipmunk antics and fire through in record time. Ian (Cross) criticising the song Dave feebly sticks together at the start of the film is an act of heroism, not a barbaric dissection of his awful music. A feature where the villain is doing his job, the protagonist is a whiny fool and the shepherd that guides these feral creatures is a talentless hack that stumbles across wild animals with product placement value. Shameful.