Andy Bockelman: 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' entertaining

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"Alvin and the Chipmunks" may be off as far as its information about the title critters (such as their fondness for toaster waffles) goes, but it is pretty agreeable as children's entertainment.

When their tree is chopped down and hauled into the city, three chipmunk brothers, Alvin, Simon and Theodore (voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney), wind up going home with would-be songwriter Dave Seville (Jason Lee). The three of them settle into the suburban setting quite well, but Dave has enough on his mind without having to concern himself with what he perceives to be a major pest problem. Just as he is ready to kick them out, he discovers that they have some real singing talent.

One thing leads to another, and he soon agrees to give them room and board in exchange for the use of their vocal skills with his songs. The combination makes for an instant success on the pop music scene, and the group Alvin and the Chipmunks becomes a household name. However, fame threatens to change everything for the sensational singing trio and their human companion.

Although Lee may not be the absolutely perfect choice to play the part of the chipmunks' adoptive parent, he at least gets one part right: the trademark "AL-VIN!!!"

Long, Gubler and McCartney do a decent job voicing the CGI rodents, but with all the sound retooling involved, virtually anybody could have spoken during the recording sessions and gotten the same result. Taking on the role of self-centered record exec Ian is David Cross, who, sadly, does not put much effort into his character.

Having been around for about 50 years, "Alvin and the Chipmunks" is all but an American institution. The exploits of spirited Alvin, sensible Simon and sweet-natured Theodore have entertained generations of families.

Likewise, The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) is an essential part of any music buff's Christmas carol collection and is the primary reason for the movie's release date. This highlight comes a bit too soon in the film, but everything that follows it is actually not too bad.

While so many other live-action updates of cartoons betray their origins, this is about as close as anybody could come to recreating the Chipmunks franchise.

Admittedly, no version of the cartoon had the chipmunks breathing helium (which apparently has the reverse effect on their voices) or drinking coffee to the point of turning into living Bouncy Balls, but it could be worse.

"Alvin and the Chipmunks" may not be as beloved by those who first experienced it in 1958, but predictable as it is, the cuteness of the chipmunks should win over quite a few.

Now playing at the West Theater.

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