‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Jason Lee, Zachary Levi
and David Cross
Now playing: at the West Theater
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” is a good lesson in multiplication.
In that respect, the viewers who haven’t yet learned how to finish the equation “Three chipmunks times two movies” are the ones who will enjoy the movie the most.
Life is good for singing chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore (voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney), who are one of the hottest musical acts worldwide. But when an onstage accident results in injury for their guardian, Dave Seville (Jason Lee), the brothers end up back at home under the watch of Dave’s cousin, Toby (Zachary Levi).
As they’re sent off to school for the first time, they’re a hit with the teenage girls who love their music, though their male classmates see them as bully targets. But the Chipmunks are focusing on a different group of fellow students — a trio who also happen to be nine inches tall and covered in fur.
The Chipettes (Christina Applegate, Anna Faris, Amy Poehler) are another group of singing chipmunks who are under the supervision of the boys’ former manager, Ian Hawke (David Cross). And with a school talent competition coming up, it’ll be a fight to the finish to prove which group of tiny vocalists is the biggest.
Once again, it’s hard to discern the voice talents behind the Chipmunks as the voices of Long, Gubler and McCartney are engineered into a high-pitched fervor. But, we all know their personalities by now: Alvin’s the energetic, obnoxious one; Simon the brainy, sarcastic type; and chubby Theodore fills out the cuteness quotient.
Lee serves in a diminished capacity as level-headed Dave, laid up in a Paris hospital after one of Alvin’s shenanigans — no wonder he keeps belting out his boy’s name with such irritation. Levi is agreeable but doofy as immature Toby, a video game addict whose lackluster babysitting would terrify any sensible parents.
Cross ratchets up his sleaziness from the first movie as the amoral record producer who spins an intricate web of lies to get the Chipettes under his representation.
In contrast to their male counterparts, the actresses voicing the girl group actually bring out some individual traits in their roles, with Applegate as diva Brittany, Faris as shy Jeanette and bright spot Poehler as plump, body-conscious Eleanor, whom Theodore assures is great just the way she is.
Now everybody say, “Awwww … ”
There’s a requisite amount of sweetness in this follow-up to the 2007 box office smash that made the world fall in love with the titular rodents all over again.
The addition of the Chipettes makes for a nice juxtaposition with the Chipmunks, who were frankly a little hard to take in their first outing. This was not so much because of the tired rehash of bringing Saturday morning cartoons to the big screen as it was the use of scatological humor.
You remember the chipmunk pellet masquerading as a raisin, don’t you?
Thankfully, such gags aren’t present here, although the whole scholastic mood seems a little too close to “High School Musical” for anybody older than 12 to take seriously.
And Alvin is even more exasperating this time around, spouting lines from “Taxi Driver” and “The Silence of the Lambs” for an audience that doesn’t understand the cinematic references.
But altogether, it’s a satisfying enough kid’s movie, especially if you like the Chipmunk/Chipette renditions of songs by Katy Perry, Beyoncé Knowles, Sister Sledge and the Bee Gees, whose “Stayin’ Alive” is reappropriated as a dedication to the Chipmunks’ favorite snack, cheese balls.
“The Squeakquel” isn’t for everyone, by any means, but if your children sit you down to watch it and you can get through the opening credits — wherein Alvin proclaims, almost threateningly, “We’re back!” — then the rest of the story shouldn’t be too difficult.
Now playing at the West Theater.