This time, Alvin (Justin Long on helium) and his band, The Chipmunks, including smart Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and gullible Theodore (Jesse McCartney), are on their way to some music awards with the Chipettes – Eleanor (Amy Poehler), Jeanette (Anna Faris) and Brittany (Christina Applegate). They travel overseas via cruise ship with their weary guardian Dave (Jason Lee), and although have been warned numerous times to behave, end up accidentally going overboard and getting marooned in a tropical paradise. But the island isn’t as deserted as it seems…
Squarely aimed at the U market, watching the on-deck antics of The Chipmunks, the Chipettes and mentor Dave is very much like watching an extended children’s TV episode about the trials and tribulations of family vacationing, with very tame goofs and pranks – usually involving the haphazard Dave – from a seasonal pantomime. The narrative is straightforward, as are the set-piece setups for kids to see the punch line coming a mile off coast. Once ‘chipwrecked’, there’s precious little that goes on, on the desert island that you wouldn’t want to leave behind, to be honest, but mischievous Alvin – however irritatingly over enthusiastic – still manages to coax a giggle out of you. There is also a nice role reversal between Alvin and Simon that keeps things interesting.
In fact, it’s Simon’s adventure this time that gets the biggest laughs from the kids when he turns all Franglais on us (with the help of Alan Tudyk’s brilliant vocal skills), allowing Alvin to learn a few life lessons in his coming-of-age experience, and for comedy director Mike Mitchell and team to open up the naughty squirrels’ shenanigans and feature other members of the cast in the limelight.
Mitchell’s writing team’s rather odd ode to Tom Hanks’s film Cast Away feels somewhat mismatched and remotely dark for a kiddies’ film, but does create the film’s anti-villain who isn’t at all scary, actually – just plain bonkers, allowing the Chipmunks to go on an Indiana Jones-style rescue through the jungle undergrowth. For adults, there is the added glee of watching the whole cast – and ex-manager Ian – marooned (finally), far away from civilisation and doing harm to reassess their actions on all of us.
The infectious and lively musical numbers will have you toe-tapping your way throughout, too, which are basically high-pitched, often a capella versions of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Pink and Willow Smith’s hits. Indeed, the phrase, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” certainly rings true as your senses are flooded with the Chipmunk drug. The ending is naturally an excuse for another grand musical Glee-style finale so there are no great surprises, and you are well and truly under the spell by then anyway to really care.
Some might argue about how ‘harmless’ a Chipmunk film is on the impressionable young mind, but this adventure takes the cast away from their natural habitat of previous films and shakes things up for anything to happen and some important rules to be learnt. Plus with its catchy musical interpretations, Chipwrecked has to be the best Chipmunk film so far for the uninitiated to be exposed to, offering wholesome family entertainment and a welcome glimpse of the sun, sea and sand on these chilling winter days.