Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks

Director: Tim Hill
Viewed: January 18, 2008
Format: Theatrical Print

F - I’m not sure if words can express how horrible Alvin and the Chipmunks is. This movie-going experience was a field trip with my students. Usually movie field trips are great: once the kids are seated, you just have to worry about trips to the restroom and not falling asleep.

Let me put it this way: I willingly and cheerfully took children to go to the bathroom, because it meant I got to stand in the hallway and wait for them instead of watch this movie.

Not that I expected Alvin to be any good. I expected a borderline cute kid’s movie that wouldn’t test my gag reflex. Instead I got a stench-ridden mess of a film. Jason Lee ought to be ashamed. He is capable of so much more! Cliche after tired pre-teen cliche was dragged out: hip hop music, gangsta fashion, the phrase “What up G?,” and many more. The first time Jason Lee yelled “Alviiiiin” a la David Seville, a little part of my soul died. If I hadn’t been getting paid for the time spent in the theater, I would be deeply depressed about the wasted time.

David Cross was the sole bright spot, as a record company asshole. I was always happy when he was on screen, because even his crappiest roles are somehow comedic genius. His wardrobe was funny, his mannerisms were funny; too bad he had to be in this film, and not something worth his talent. When you’re rooting for the evil corporate asshole to win against the cute, childlike protagonists, you know the movie has made a wrong turn somewhere.

My students loved it. Why wouldn’t they? It’s emblematic of the main problem of youth entertainment in our culture, pandering to unfavorable stereotypes to make “cool” profitable. Every time Alvin copped hip-hop slang, there were kids in my group who felt as if the movie were speaking their language. The saddest thing about this is the hip-hop slang is not the language of middle-class white suburbanite children. There are very few attempts to genuinely reach out to children in popular culture. It’s mostly just pandering to what they think they should be. As an advocate for children, it disgusts me.

My moment of utter horrid realization that Hell was bubbling up below me to swallow me into bad film oblivion? Jason Lee’s character is on a date with his ex-girlfriend, and Alvin is subliminally making things romantic for him, i.e., a cartoon chipmunk is trying to help the human love interest have sex.

It is an utterly and completely repulsive moment, and if one of my students hadn’t asked me to take them to the bathroom, Hell would have grabbed me by the ankles and pulled me down.

This review will be the first in a new feature I will write from personal experience: “Children’s Films that Do Not Suck” (or do suck, depending…)

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