As the fourth installment of this somewhat incredulous but successful movie franchise, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip is one of the better of the lot. Now, “better” is all relative in this wacky world created from the Ross Bagdasarian characters that once annoyingly shrieked a famous Christmas song that kids loved and parents loved to hate.
Jason Lee is back as the long-suffering Dave Seville, who somehow has formed a family unit with these talking and singing chipmunks that are like rodent Three Stooges creating havoc everywhere they go, prompting Dave to scream the oft-expected “Alvin!!!” in desperation. Of course, the chipmunks give the kiddies what they want, and as long as that is the case these movies will keep coming, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
My child didn’t have to drag me to see this; I have always found some sort of entertainment in the franchise; however, this one is probably the most palatable entry from the parents’ perspective since the first film. There are enough in-jokes to give adults a chuckle while the kids will be screeching with laughter throughout (which was the case for my son and his peer group of 4-10 year olds who were present at our viewing).
The story concerns the titular chippies worrying that their “Dad” dear old Dave is now in love with the beautiful Samantha (Kimberly Williams –Paisley). The problem or conflict extends to Samantha’s teenage son Miles (Josh Green), who abuses the boys when no one is looking and enjoys doing it. Alvin and company fear that Dave is about to be engaged (a huge diamond ring in the safe seems to confirm it for them) making Miles their brother and condemning them to a life of torture.
When Dave takes Samantha to Miami for what they believe will be the big romantic moment, Alvin and company form an unholy alliance with their tormentor Miles (who has daddy issues because of the father who left him as a young child) to go there and stop it from happening. The bulk of the film concentrates on this odd quartet getting from L.A. to Miami.
An incident on the plane out of L.A. may be the funniest sequence, when animals from below are inadvertently released by Theodore and invade the cabin. This sets Air Marshall Suggs (Tony Hale as another hapless chipmunk nemesis) who grounds the plane in Texas, puts them on the no-fly list, and then futilely chases them cross country in hopes to throw them in “chipmunk jail.”
There are some musical sequences, a few heart-string moments, and the issue of fatherhood comes up and its importance to both Miles and the chipmunks. A particularly rousing musical number in the streets of New Orleans will delight old and young alike, and director Walt Becker (with road trip experience from Wild Hogs) plays it exceedingly safe by staying close to formula – throw the boys into situations, have them stir the pot, and let the mayhem ensue.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip is a nice way to spend 92 minutes with your children, and there is nothing in this PG-rated film to offend anyone (except perhaps air marshalls or overworked TSA workers). As my son and I walked away from the theater, he had a smile on his face and I did too. In the end that’s what this kind of movie is really all about.
Photo credits: 20th Century Fox