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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

March 25th, 2010

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: Buy from Amazon: DVD, Two-Disc DVD, or Blu-ray

When Alvin and the Chipmunks came out it was a surprise hit, earning more than $200 million domestically and $350 million worldwide. Granted, it was scorned by critics, myself included. Since it was so profitable, it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. Or squeakquel, as it were. Obviously those that hated the original will probably feel the same about Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, but can it at least live up to its predecessor?

First, a brief recap of the plot of the original...

David Seville goes into the woods and cuts down a tree for Christmas, but this tree was the home of three talking and singing Chipmunks: Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. Dave is a failed songwriter and his latest song was rejected by Ian Hawke, who is an executive of Jett Records. When Ian Hawke hears the Chipmunks sing, he signs them to a contract. It isn't long before he's exploiting them to make a huge amount of money. In the end, he gets his well-deserved comeuppance.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel starts where the first ends, a major concert in Paris. After an accident puts Dave in the hospital, Aunt Jackie is called in to take care of the boys until Dave recovers. However, another accident sends her to the hospital and its up to her grandson, Tobey to take care of them. He's more concerned about playing video games. Meanwhile, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are starting school, but things don't start so well and they are picked on by the jocks. After a fight, the Principal tells them they can either be suspended or help the school's music program by competing in a Battle of the Bands. Also, Alvin shows his athletic prowess and becomes part of the football team, which causes a conflict with his singing career when again he puts his ego ahead of his brothers.

Meanwhile, Ian Hawke has been reduced to living in the basement of Jett Records, but he thinks he found his way back to the top: the Chipettes, three female singing chipmunks: Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor. He is desperate to defeat the Chipmunks and to make the Chipettes stars, but he hasn't learned from the fallout from his exploitation of the Chipmunks. The Chipettes could be in trouble.

How does Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel compare to Alvin and the Chipmunks? Well, to be diplomatic, it's not really worse than the original. That's not a compliment. This is a very, very lazy movie that always goes for the easy route. I lost count of the number of "pop culture" references. I wouldn't mind this if they were done in a witty matter that generated genuine laughs, but that's not the case here. These pop culture references are used by the writers so they don't have to come up with character-based jokes. Additionally, there's little in this film that sets it apart from the original. Yes, there are three new characters (the Chipettes) but they are basically clones of the Chipmunks, only female. Additionally, the arc taken by the three new characters is nearly identical to the one taken by the Chipmunks in the first movie.

That said, I believe this film will entertain younger kids (6 to 8 years old) even if their parents will look for an excuse, any excuse, to flee the room when it's on.

(On a side note: just to entertain myself, I watched some of the film in fast forward; however, the PS3 only speeds up the film, it doesn't make the audio go all high pitched. I wanted to watch the movie will all the humans sounding like chipmunks and the chipmunk voices so high pitched that only dogs could hear them. I was disappointed.)

I only have the Two-Disc DVD, but I think the first disc of that set is just the DVD. If so, there are not a lot of extras on this version. Things start with 'Munk Music Machine, which has several songs that you can listen to. There's even an infinite loop. Music Mania is a nine-minute featurette on the musical finale. I guess if you just want to rent the film, this isn't bad, but it's certainly not enough to be a selling point.

On disc two there are plenty of featurettes, most of them rather short and superficial. There's a nine-minute featurette on the history of the Chipmunks and another nine-minute look at the Chipettes. (At one point, they argue that the Chipettes have totally separate personalities when compared to the Chipmunks. This is blatantly false.) Rockin' Rising Stars runs six minutes and it's about some of the other music acts that are featured in the movie. Music Mania is the same featurette on the first disc (huh?). The Chipmunks: Behind the Squeaking is a 10-minute parody of a Behind the Music show. A-Nut-Omy of a Scene is a short, three-minute look at how they film a scene with a character that's not there. Meet the Stuffies looks at the stand-ins for the CG characters. Shake Your Grove Thing! with Rosero has the choreographer teaching dance moves.

I do not have the Blu-ray, but I hope to get it shortly. However, since it is the same price as the Two-Disc DVD (at least it is on it would be nearly impossible for this version to not be the better deal.

The Verdict

The value of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel depends greatly on your age. This is a kids movie that might entertain younger kids, but it will likely be painful for parents to watch. Also, quite frankly there are better choices out there, even for kids. If your kids liked the first movie, then the DVD is worth a rental. If they still watch the first movie, then the Blu-ray is worth buying.

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