There’s a certain charm to these movies that were based-off the Saturday morning cartoons of my youth, but these aren’t your dad’s Saturday Morning cartoons. They blend the fanciful whims of the 80’s with modern story-telling and cutting-edge CGI.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip is the fourth in a series of Chipmunks movies that have come to us over the past decade. However, whereas the first three movies were more of a children’s story for ten year olds and under, the fourth movie is slightly more sophisticated and targets the teen crowd with its themes and casting.
Of particular note is newcomer to the series Josh Green, who plays Miles, the teenage son of a broken family who is in the enviable or perhaps not so-enviable position of becoming the Chipmunks’ brother.
The story goes that Dave is off to go Miami with his new girlfriend Samantha (who happens to be Miles’ mother), and the Chipmunks find an engagement ring in his luggage. Coupled with Dave’s plans of turning over a new leaf and buying a new house, this leads Alvin, Simon and Theodore to believe that Dave is off to abandon them and start a new family with Miles’ mother.
Determined not to become homeless again, the Chipmunks hatch a plan with the obnoxious Josh, who doesn’t deign the idea of becoming family with three talking furry rodents any more than they do. Their plan is to mess up the engagement, but Dave has already left! So the Chipmunks and Josh go on a road trip to Miami to save the status quo.
It’s a very predictable story, with a token antagonistic Air Marshal who doggedly chases them down for a perceived offense, but this was by far the most enjoyable and best Chipmunks movie to date from the four live-action ones. Miles’ character shows some sibling rivalry evident, but the real theme of this movie is one of friendship and learning to grow up with changes.
As a teenager, this is a different tone from the first two movies, and his backstory is the first attempt in the film to actually give the characters some depth instead of being flat cartoon caricatures. While I can’t say that they actually succeeded in creating a character of depth, perhaps I should not be expecting too much from a simple family movie.
However, the handling of his character was an improvement over the “grown-up good for nothing” theme that we saw in the second movie with Dave’s nephew. And it’s certainly light years ahead of the third movie’s shipwreck story, which was just plain bad.
The real bonus to this film however is the soundtrack. While the first movie looked to reprise the famous Chipmunk Song, the second did covers for Beyonce and other contemporary pop artists, and the third movie, well, was just bad (but with great music), the fourth film doubles down on everything from the first three movies and gives what is perhaps the most impressive cover of “Uptown Funk” that I’ve ever seen, complete with a great jazz band behind it.
I mean seriously, watch this movie just for this cover. It’s that good. I can see myself putting this video with the complete audio-visual performance on loop in the near future once the Bluray is out. It’s just that awesome. Take my word for it.
It’s a bit unfortunate that this movie has done relatively poorly in the box office compared to the first three outings. The second movie was the biggest box office success, and ironically it was the one that had the least inspired soundtrack in my opinion, as the Chipmunks and the Chippetes mainly just did covers from pop icons at the time like Taylor Swift and Beyonce.
Well, it’s only been about a month since its release so perhaps the movie can still come up with its three brethren. I don’t want the box office to send the wrong signal to the producers and make more movies like the second one (which was bad) and less like this one (which wasn’t so bad, not great, but not bad).
Perhaps the timing was just wrong, as the movie is directly competing with the behemoth Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s just not an ideal time to be airing, but hey we can’t be afraid of a little guy in a black suit with a pointy red sword worshipping Darth Vader’s mask, can we?
As always with all the Chipmunks movie, go into this one and expect a great fun musical time. The beats are in the right place to get you grooving, the laughs are great, and among all the Saturday Morning Cartoon-turned-movies I always felt The Chipmunks were the best executed, much better than Garfield, Scooby Doo or The Smurfs. This fourth movie is the best installment so far in the franchise, and it’s a great family movie to just go take a lid off and have a good time.
Alvin and the Chipmunks is showing in theaters now.