Christmas will soon be here and with it comes the usual assortment of movies that seem to exist only to create a demand for stuffed toys, talking pens and soundtracks. First out of the gate this year is Alvin and the Chipmunks, starring Jason “My Name is Earl” Lee as a struggling songwriter who discovers three talented chipmunks—Alvin, Simon and Theodore—living in his house and rides their little furry coattails to the top of the music charts.
Brought to you by the director of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, Alvin and the Chipmunks is as good as you would imagine a movie from the director of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties to be.
A compact ninety minutes, it has the prerequisite ”heartwarming” family values message and is jam packed with all the stuff calculated to make kids laugh—loads of slapstick, poo jokes and goofy songs—the trouble is, the audience of kids I saw it with wasn’t laughing much. That’s because there’s nothing clever or interesting about Alvin and the Chipmunks. It’s aimed directly at kids, but feels more like the target is their parent’s pocketbook. The entire movie feels like a big-budget commercial for Chipmunk’s merchandise; a way to influence little Johnny’s Christmas wish list.
It’s ironic because the movie comes with a stern anti-consumerist message. In one of the most obvious postmodern examples of life imitating art, the big-screen Chipmunks are exploited by their evil manager who tries to suck every dollar out of their popularity by marketing Chipmunk’s dolls and other products. It all feels a bit hypocritical.
Alvin and the Chipmunks will likely do well at the box office trading on its family appeal and the nostalgic goodwill generated by the name, but despite its hip cast—Jason Lee, Justin Long, David Cross and Jesse McCartney—it is little more than a holiday money grab.