Film Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Fourth Chipmunk outing offers broad slapstick for kids and an endurance test for their parents.
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A young dad exiting the press screening of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip right in front of me looked down at his plus-one preschooler and asked him for a review. “I loved it!” the lad shot back. “I want to see it again!” After a long and thoughtful pause, the father wondered if his son could possibly get by without a repeat viewing. “No,” the boy insisted, digging his heels in, “I want to see it again!” “Okay,” said Dad, surrendering to a lost cause, “we’ll talk to your mother about it.”

That scene will likely be as commonplace as holly and mistletoe in the coming weeks, so it would be good “planned parenthood” to approach this flick like a relay race for Mom and Dad. Number Four in the popular family-film franchise is chock-full of enough broad-stroked formulistic fun to keep the small-fry entertained and engaged, but heaven help adult escorts with shorter fuses for mindless slapstick.

The new installment—The Road Chip—is this kiddie series’ version of a road movie. Alvin, Simon and Theodore get the impression that their designated father-figure, Dave (Jason Lee), is eloping to Miami with an attractive heart surgeon (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), who comes with a particularly unpleasant stepbrother, Miles (Josh Green). Fortunately, or unfortunately, Miles has some unresolved father issues and a fear of being tossed aside for Dave, so the four of them join forces and light out after the would-be newlyweds in hopes of heading them off at the altar.

What follows is a major headache for Air Traffic Control. Alvin and Simon manage to slip by the airport scanners by stowing away on Miles, but Theodore winds up in storage where he manages to unleash a menagerie of pets into coach and first-class.

Among the first-class is John Waters, in a cameo, swapping snippy barbs with Alvin—and losing. (“Don’t you judge me,” says Alvin. “I saw Pink Flamingos.”)

Rude humor like that which sails over the heads of the moppet market is helpfully peppered into the screenplay to bring the grown-ups back to consciousness.

None of the actors makes much of an impression—nor, come to think of it, do they have to. Lee musters a commendable mix of light-fingered sternness toward the mischievous chipmunks who (several times) makes a shambles of his home. Gone completely untapped is the perkiness and charm that Williams-Paisley can exhibit when given half a role. As her stepbrother and late-blooming chipmunk musketeer, Green displays the sort of dreamboat good looks much in favor with junior misses.

Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney voice the title trio, and their opposite numbers, the distaff Chipettes, are handled by Christina Applegate, Anna Faris and Kaley Cuoco. Although it’s a live-action performance, Tony Hale makes something of a Wile E. Coyote of the dopey air marshal on the chipmunk’s trail.

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