As a professional critic I know I shouldn’t be biased against any movie but indeed I was biased against “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.” The first two “Alvin and the Chipmunks” big screen adventures are moronic and terrible movies that flashed pretty colors and loud music in order to distract children and parents into thinking they’d gotten their money’s worth.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” on the other hand has a richness and thoughtfulness that was lacking in the first two movies. In no way is ‘Chipwrecked’ a great movie but by the lowered bar of the first two films it’s a “Citizen Kane” level effort.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” opens on a cruise ship where a family vacation is, of couse, upended by Alvin’s hijinks. Dave (Jason Lee) makes the mistake of leaving Alvin alone in their state room and he leads a break out of the room that takes him to the casino and the Chipettes to the dance floor for a dance off against some Jersey Shore babes.
The ship scenes are very reminiscent of all the things wrong with the first two ‘Alvin’ movies and my heart sank for about 10 minutes until Alvin took flight on a kite with Simon, Theordore, Brittany, Eleanor, and Jeanette hanging on the tale end. The kite carries the chipmunks of the cruise ship and off-course to a lost little island.
Dave gives chase after the kids on a hang glider and is joined by his music industry rival Ian (David Cross) who gets caught up attempting to stop Dave from going after the kids. Ian is now a mascot for the cruise line and spends most of the movie dressed as a giant pelican.
Jenny Slate Steals the Show
In my favorite part of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” former SNL bit player and “Bored to Death” actress Jenny Slate plays Zoe, a castaway on the island. Slate’s wacked out Zoe has a running gag about sports balls, ala Tom Hanks in “Cast Away,” that somehow got a laugh from me every time the movie brought it back.
Will kids get a reference to “Cast Away?” Probably not; but the wacky bits that Slate does with the balls, including naming them, are expansive enough to get laughs no matter whether you get the reference. It’s also nice to see the creators of ‘Chipwrecked’ throw moms and dads a bone.
A MAJOR Improvement
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” is not a great movie; it doesn’t rise to the level of great family movies like “The Muppets” or “Rango,” but the fact that the makers of ‘Chipwrecked’ worked hard enough to improve this awful series is admirable. Director Mike Mitchell could have coasted on the ‘Alvin’ brand name and he didn’t and I appreciate that.
Unlike the first two films, there is the sense of an actual idea in “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.” The movie aims to dialogue a little with kids about growing up and learning and earning responsibility. It’s a little idea and it’s not pursued with much depth but it’s one more idea than existed in the first two movies combined.