So once again we have survived.

Alvin and the Chipmunks (not the squeakquel – the nutriginal)

tn_alvinLet’s say you are an adult male, single. You’re unhappy with your advertising job, but you are a home owner, and you also own a whole bunch of instruments and recording equipment for pursuing your true passion of songwriting. You even have a very good connection – a college friend who runs a huge record label and who’s willing to listen to your demos. Only problem is your music is corny and old-fashioned, and he’s looking for terrible and new-fashioned. Also, you’re lonely because you were Afraid Of Commitment so your model-looking girlfriend left you. Then one day you steal an entire basket of muffins for no reason, and your hearing, eyesight and powers of observation are so off-the-charts terrible that you do not notice three large, talking anthropomorphized chipmunks loudly hanging from and climbing into your basket while you’re carrying it. So they hide in your house and eat a bunch of your food and for some reason you keep not hearing them even though they’re talking at normal volume in the same room as you. But you finally notice them so one of them farts in your face, they break a jar over your head and think they killed you so they discuss disposing of your body.

But when you wake up you throw them out of your house and then you hear them singing. You thought they could only talk but it turns out they can also sing. So what do you do?

In the actual movie Simon is not dressed as Kool Moe Dee and Theodore is not dressed like Doctor Dre from Yo! MTV Raps
In the actual movie Simon is not dressed as Kool Moe Dee and Theodore is not dressed like Doctor Dre from Yo! MTV Raps

If you’re Dave Seville, played by former actor Jason Lee in ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS, you decide to let the talking chipmunks who were about to dismember your corpse live in your house in exchange for recording your demos. Dave is in contention with GARFIELD’s Jon as the most pathetic portrayal of an adult male ever put on screen. He spends alot of this movie making dopey exaggerated smiles like a children’s show host while failing to quite make eye contact with his animated co-stars. He’s the type of character who mostly gets lines like, “Wait, Clare! Don’t go – I can explain!” and “Hey guys, I have an idea for a new song!” The edgiest thing he says in the movie is when he catches Alvin bathing in his dishwasher and he says, “Clam it, sudsy!”

After the talking chipmunks flood his house, hide syrupy waffles under his rugs and furniture, fill his refrigerator with garbage, get him fired from his job and humiliate him in front of his ex-girlfriend and others, but also record one novelty Christmas song, he decides that he loves them. But his record executive friend (David Cross) tells them Dave called them rats so they go to live with him and go on a world tour. As far as I can tell they only lived with Dave for about two days, but halfway through their world tour he’s still moping around the house reminiscing about the time they threw paper airplanes at his head. See, it’s just like Jon in GARFIELD, the cat insults him all day, flushes the toilet while he’s in the shower, but for some reason Jon bakes the cat lasagna and has him in all his photos.

With Cross the talking chipmunks get a taste of the boy band lifestyle. They get all the materialistic crap they want, wear silver clothes and they have to lip synch. This is supposed to be some kind of indictment of pre-fabricated pop music, because the way they’re living there is so soulless and godless compared to when they had less money but still trashed Dave’s house and took a shit on his couch and recorded that one song he wrote about how Alvin wanted a hula hoop. That was when the music meant something, man. I’m not sure why the filmatists think David Cross is such a bad guy for making chipmunks lip synch shitty music when they themselves make their living by making real human children watch a shitty commercial product like this. Seems a little hypocritical to me.

The writers try to show they’re aware of the absurdity of the concept. When Dave initially tries to throw them out of his house one chipmunk says, “But… we talk.” When he tries to convince Cross that a certain incident will ruin their career Cross says that it won’t because they’re talking chipmunks. When Dave wonders how they (SPOILER) escaped from the villain offscreen one says, “We’re talking chipmunks. We can escape from a cat carrier.” And I’m sure they’d have a similar answer if you asked how they got out of their recording contract at the end and were able to just leave the tour without a multi-million dollar lawsuit bankrupting them and their unemployed guardian.

That’s all fine and good but I’d rather see this kind of awareness from Dave. “Hey Dave, at the end how did you know your trademark was yelling ‘ALVVVINNN!!’ all the time even though that wasn’t really established that much in the movie?”

“I’m a man who raises three talking chipmunks as his sons. I can figure out my own catchphrase.”

See, I can accept talking chipmunks, that’s called suspension of the ol’ disbelief. But I have a harder time accepting the humans in this movie. They’re less believable than the clothes-wearing animals.

I know that compared to Garfield these chipmunks are Mother Teresa, but there’s still no reason to want the little bastards loose in your house. Instead of giving them personality, emotions, motives or something it seems like they just had some storyboard artists draw up all the different things they could jump on, swing from, or catapult across a room. No time to distinguish Alvin from the one with glasses, but wouldn’t it be cute if one of them slid into a bowl and jumped up like a snowboarder? I guess they do make a failed sitcom-style attempt to get Dave laid, but mostly they just ignore anything he says to them, spazz out and wreck shit in his house. Then after a couple days Dave acts like they’ve bonded and starts calling them “my boys.” The movie doesn’t justify this at all, it just needs to get to that plot point where Dave matures and wins back his ex. I mean, you know how it is. Women are always looking for a man who’s ready to have a family, or who puts clothes on forest creatures and pretends they’re his children.

This brings up another mystery of what the fuck was going through somebody’s head when they intentionally sent this fuckin thing out into the universe. Who did they think they were making it for? The comedy is clearly for kids around 5 and under, since aside from a couple semi-funny David Cross lines it’s all a bunch of flying around and smashing things and not much that could actually be considered “jokes” per se. So do they think kids will enjoy the plot, or do they think they’re doing the parents a favor by making it about a loser trying to win back his girlfriend by proving he’s a responsible family man? Do they believe there are parents out there saying, “Well, my kids loved the part where the chipmunk said the poop was a raisin and then had to put it in his mouth, but what I loved was the lesson Dave learned about fatherhood and responsiblity”?

Alot of critics theorized that kids wouldn’t like WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE because it doesn’t have a strong plot. Is this the kind of plot they wanted? Do kids even know what “afraid of commitment” means?

In my opinion the key to a good singing chipmunk movie is to have some kind of internal logic. There is no internal logic to this thing. We learn that other animals do not talk, but there’s no explaining or wondering why these particular chipmunks can talk. The three chipmunks all do the same thing, but for some reason it’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” What did he do to be named the leader? For that matter, what did he do to get Dave yelling his name all the time? They’re all tearing up the house but for some reason it’s only Alvin that gets yelled at.

There’s an old joke that little kids like, it goes like this: a guy’s pants fall down, and his underwear has hearts on it. So if you are a parent and your kid wants to see this movie, that’s cool and I’m sure they will enjoy all the farting and dancing. I don’t blame kids. But I do have to question the adults who spent a year of their lives making this. If your job is to work in movies then you’re lucky and you should show thanks to the universe by at least putting in a minimal amount of effort to try to do a good job. If you don’t want to do that you should be working at a factory or something.

Just because movies like this usually are crap doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to do better. If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. Let’s see some hustle out there you crumb bums.

I noticed Arnon Milchan was one of the executive producers. So they could’ve advertised it as “From the producer of ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and BRAZIL, and the director of GARFIELD: A TALE OF TWO KITTIES.” The director’s name is Tim Hill, his uncle George Roy directed BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and SLAP SHOT. The best thing the nephew did was MUPPETS FROM SPACE. The writers are Jon Vitti (Larry Sanders, Simpsons, King of the Hill), Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi (The Adventures of Pete and Pete). As you can see I looked them up on IMDb, which confirmed my hunch that all four of these men are adult professionals. So I feel they should be held accountable for their actions. They put their names on it. They signed the painting. And I’m sure they cashed the check. They should have to wear a giant A on their shirts.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010 at 9:38 pm and is filed under Family, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

70 Responses to “Alvin and the Chipmunks (not the squeakquel – the nutriginal)”

  1. Man, what happened to McRobb and Viscard? Pete and Pete was a quality show for being on Nickelodeon.

  2. How does Jason Lee go from MY NAME IS EARL to this? They must have paid him ten million dollars. He should be embarassed. He was the bad guy in THE INCREDIBLES, so it’s not like he just does crap kid’s movies, he does good ones too. He needs a new agent.

  3. Vern why did you watch this? You didn’t go and have kids, did you?

    This line was great: “Alot of critics theorized that kids wouldn’t like WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE because it doesn’t have a strong plot. Is this the kind of plot they wanted?”

    Thank you for your tireless efforts, good read even if it’s an utterly useless film!

  4. I’m about to walk down to the video store and get Blood And Bone out. Finally it is available in Australia. So, should I get this out to.

  5. No, I would stick with BLOOD AND BONE.

    I know, I had no legitimate reason to watch this one. It’s just that after a couple years of seeing the ads and being fascinated by the word “squeakquel” I got too curious about what the hell it would be like. This is the same reason I know I’ll end up watching one of these “Twilight” movies one of these days. I don’t pretend to be warning anybody away, like anybody here was hoping it would be good. But sometimes they’re fun to write about anyway.

  6. They already made the perfect Chipmunk movie and that’s “The Chipmunk Adventure”. If you’re gonna watch the new ones, you owe it to yourself to check it out, too. Because what kids want in their movies is diamond smuggling and creepy Interpol agents chasing talking Chipmunks. I know I did.

  7. ouch Vern, talk about taking one for the team

    remember in the 1980’s when kids movie were not only good, but enjoyable for adults as well?

  8. I woke up, read this and it made my day.

  9. The Adventures of Pete and Pete was class kids tv. You’re right Vern, the writers were really slumming it with
    this one. My mum bought my son a copy of this movie on dvd – he still hasn’t watched it. He’s nearly three, so
    I guess he better see it soon or he’ll be too old for the jokes…

  10. FTR Vern, in my opinion “Twilight” is easily the greatest misunderstood masterpiece since the great liberal polemic “Dude, where’s my car”. I’m not even kidding.

    I haven’t seen this one unfortunately. May have to check it out now though. Damn you Vern!

  11. I would love to hear your theory on “Dude, Where Is My Car”, Paul. (I’m not kidding. I like the movie, but I wanna know why it’s a great polemic liberal misunderstood masterpiece.)

  12. Paul, “Twilight”? Really?
    I’d like to think we’re all probably open to films here and base judgement on their merits, but I’m sure I’m not alone is scratching my head over how you could like this film. I really thought it was bad, bad, bad. Any explanations coming?
    Also, just saw “Blood and Bone”, and yeah, it’s good, really good. Thanks Vern for banging the drum for these quality DTVs.

  13. Jason Lee was amazing in Dreamcatcher!!!!

    I doubt you can finish Twilight Vern. It’s unbelievably unwatchable/painful to endure. I’d be willing to bet cold hard cash you got more enjoyment every few minutes with Alvin than you would with the entire running length of Twilight. I mean there is nothing redeemable about those movies for anyone other than horny women.

  14. I also look forward to the Dude Where’s my Car essay……

  15. Jareth Cutestory

    March 30th, 2010 at 6:47 am

    One of my favorite movies as a real young kid was something called THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE. I remember being on the edge of my seat all through that one.

    I’m tempted to rent it to see if I can find some sort of qualitative proof to support the theory that kids movies are in decline.

  16. Is THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE the one with the cat who comes from outer space?

    Just kidding. I mean, is it the movie with the cat that wears this glowing necklace? If I remember Dennis Dugan (director of several Adam Sandler flicks) was starring in it (as the human main character. Not the cat.)*

    *Please note that I could easily check IMDB, but for any reason I usually prefer to don’t go there.

  17. Guys, kids movies in the ’80’s sucked to. There is no magical time period where everything that Hollywood produced was pure gold. There were some really great kids movies produced in the 80’s and there was ALOT of corny, cheap garbage that no one over five could possibly enjoy on any merits other then nostalgia. Kind of jsut like today.

  18. well name some examples of some bad ones Brendan

  19. Popeye. Transformers the Movie. Flight of the Navigator. The Ewok Movies. Was Rockadoodle 80’s? If it was, Rockadoodle.

  20. Jareth Cutestory

    March 30th, 2010 at 7:19 am

    CJ Holden: All I remember about the film is that McClean Stevenson from M*A*S*H was in it, that the glowing necklace allows the cat to speak English, and that the military is chasing him. Like you say, the film’s title probably counts in today’s parlance as a spoiler.

    The film is probably as awful as much of what Disney was putting out at the time: THE SHAGGY D.A., UNIDENTIFIED FLYING ODDBALL, THE MILLION DOLLAR DUCK, and those sassy Volkswagon movies.

  21. Jareth Cutestory

    March 30th, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Brendan: Modern science has conclusively demonstrated that the quality of children’s entertainment began to decline the moment Hayley Mills got too old to play a kid. THAT DARN CAT was pretty much the high water mark.

    There was a brief upward blip when Rudi from the Cosby Show first came on the air.

  22. Well, if the science proves it then who am I to argue?

  23. Talking about crappy kids movies and 60’s/70’s live action Disney movies: I really would like to see another Dexter Riley movie, but only if Kurt Russel still plays Dexter.

  24. Jareth Cutestory

    March 30th, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Man, in this day and age, given the nitwits who write movies, another Medfield film in which Kurt Russel ingests a wacky potion can only go down one path: Super Viagara.

  25. I definitely agree that there have always been terrible kids movies, especially in the 70s and 80s. (I wouldn’t include Popeye on that list though.) But I think anybody can see that 2009 was a banner year for artful family movies that adults without kids can go to. One of them was even nominated for best picture. I’ll go more into this point in the squeakquel to this review.

  26. Most of my scorn for Popeye comes from Shelly Duval’s voice. I’m not sure how they went through the entire production and post-production without realizing her Olive Oyl voice was nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying. I guess the movie is OK in a “How the Hell did this get made?” sort of way. And Robin Williams is pretty funny when you can understand what he’s saying.

  27. Great review Vern.

    Somebody please get Jason Lee a new agent!

    I think DUDE WHERE’S MY CAR was supposed to be a stoner movie but then they took out all the references to pot and just made the movie with the two main characters as idiots instead of stoners.

  28. Jareth Cutestory

    March 30th, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Charles: Would you describe BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE that way?

  29. My kids (3 and 5) just finished watching this for seven days in a row! They love it. They don’t care about Dave or any of the human characters. They just wanna see chipmunks sing, dance, fart, and say silly things. For the record, they also like PONYO, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, KUNG FU PANDA, and old MR. DRESS-UP episodes.

    When I was a kid it was all about ROBOTECH, GALAXY EXPRESS 999, 1960s BATMAN and a swedish film called DUNDERKLUMPIN- A bizarre and eccentric mash-up of animated characters and live actors in funny costumes romping through the forest.

  30. “We learn that other animals do not talk, but there’s no explaining or wondering why these particular chipmunks can talk.”
    Scooby Doo has that problem. I remember one scene where Scooby was in the prescence of another dog. A regular sized, live action dog, and it just raised too many questions about what the fuck the deal was with Scooby being bigger, faker looking, and anthropomorphised.
    About Twilight, while I’m steering clear of it and think it’s trash, I do think that if they film the fourth book INCREDIBLY faithfully, the WTF factor of it and the backlash that would receive would partly make up for it. Because here’s what I read happens in the that book (SPOILERS)

    That Bella girl is pregnant with Edward’s kid, but because it’s half vampire, the gestation period is like a few days, and when she starts to go into labour, her back is broken and she vomits “a fountain of blood”. A FOUNTAIN! But that’s not all! Edward then has to use his teeth to perform an emergency cesaerian by tearing her stomach open (she suvives by being turned into a vampire), and the creepy, rapidly aging child is born. Oh, and when she’s born, the werewolf dude falls in love with her and “imprints” himself on her so that she’ll fall in love with him when she grows up. She doesn’t have a choice in the matter, she’s gonna fall in love with the Paedophile Werewolf who was up until then in love with her mother! And according to Wikipedia”She will reach physical maturity after about seven years, when her physical appearance will be around seventeen, and then stop aging.”! If they keep all that in, I might actually go see that movie!

  31. Ever since I heard the jaw-droppingly disgusting but apparently romantic (?) conclusion of the Twilight saga, I have been hoping that Cronenberg would get the nod for the film version. It’s pretty much the only way I’d see it.

  32. I’m all for Cronenberg doing the Twilight finale! But I’m also for Cronenberg doing everything.

  33. Now that I think of it, we should immediately start a huge online campaign to get David Cronenberg for this!

  34. Jareth, I don’t know about Bill & Ted but I know the film maker says that was the case on the Dude Where’s My Car commentary. Yes, I am aware I just admitted to listening to the commentary track on Dude Where’s My Car, but it was recommended to me as one of the most ridiculous director & cast commentaries of all time. All they talk about is how it was supposed to be a great stoner movie, and all the chicks they thought were hot on set. It was in some ways better then the movie.

  35. Viggronenberg are doing a movie about Sigmund Freud followed by a sequel to Eastern Promises. So leave them out of this. Verhoeven seems to have trouble getting his Thomas Crown movie off the ground, though, and he’s always my go to choice to direct any movie.

  36. Is anyone besides me kinda bummed that Cronenberg is doing a sequel to EASTERN PROMISES? I loved the movie, but don’t see any particular reason to return to those characters, and the story seemed pretty well concluded.

    Im sure it’ll be good, but it always makes me sad when great directors waste their time on unnecessary sequels (I call it Don Coscarelli syndrome). Maybe they’ve got a great story idea that they can’t pass up on, but come on, wouldn’t everyone be way happier with a new idea?

  37. Maybe it’ll give Cronenberg the chance to work in all the chestginas and cockasauruses he couldn’t fit in the first film.

  38. I actually like it when Vern reviews non-action genre movies like this. I sat through this too on HBO and found it to be disposable kiddie stuff, no better or worse. (Which i guess was his point) Can’t really agree with Vern on it not appealing to either demographic since this movie somehow made like $200 million, so I guess somebody liked it enough to see it in theatres.

    On a side-note: I’m really glad Vern didn’t pull the David Cross card. I f’ing hate it when hipsters say shit like “yeah, Pootie Tang sucked, but David Cross was in it!”. Or “such and such was awesome because Will Arnett or Zach Galifinakis was in it!!” Seriously folks.

    And while we’re at gratuitous name-dropping, I did think it was awesome that Cameron Richardson (the aforementioned girlfriend in this movie) was in a reverse-cowgirl sex scene in Open Water 2, which might be a kids movie first.

  39. you make a good point. last year we got Where the Wild Things are, Fantastic Mr. Fox & Up. there is no excuse for bullshit like this these days.

    the big piss off is i like Jason Lee, he’s a funny guy, and a good actor when he tries.
    and Cross is a funny motherfucker too. whut happeh??

  40. I’m not trying to start a war party or anything, but what crumbcake-eating motherfucker says that Pootie Tang sucks?

  41. Majestyk – if I had a dollar for every cooler-than-thou hipster who said “David Cross was the only good thing in Pootie Tang”, I’d have like 5 or 6 dollars. He wasn’t even close to the funniest thing -I honestly needed to go back and make sure he was even in it. I agree, let’s get the war party started.

  42. I didn’t even remember that David Cross was in that movie, that’s how not the funniest thing in it he is.

    Oh well. Can’t please everybody. Sa da tay.

  43. The worst thing about the success of this film is that it has sparked a flood of live-action/CGI cartoon remakes. Have you seen the trailer for MARMADUKE? I wouldn’t think it was possible to make something that is less funny than the comic strip, but here we are. How’s that for movie magic?

    I loved WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, FANTASTIC MR. FOX and UP, but kids didn’t. Kids like stupid shit. There’s no getting around it. Call me cynical, but as much as I’d love to raise my future kids on Hayao Miyazaki, I’m more than likely going to be watching farting ogres in SHREK 7. I guess I’m part of the problem.

    I don’t see the point of an EASTERN PROMISES sequel, but I really want to know how he’s going to top that naked shower-room knife fight.

    Count me among those who really don’t get the POOTIE TANG love. At all.

  44. (Spoilers for EASTERN PROMISES, although that probly doesn’t need to be stated in a comments thread for ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS. It should go without saying.)

    Subtlety – As I probly said in my review, EASTERN PROMISES has an ending that feels like either the perfect end to the story or the cliffhanger before the real story. Or both. I mean it ends with a mole becoming the head of the organization, how is there not a good story in that? And things change so drastically at the end that it couldn’t be a rehash.

    But then I don’t believe in Coscarelli Syndrome. I like all the PHANTASM sequels. I think that’s quack medicine you’re practicing.

    As for David Cross, he plugged Seagalogy in Time Magazine, so I probly shouldn’t have reviewed this movie due to conflict of interest. I was probly being too easy on him. (Actually I honestly thought it was funny when he captured the Chipmunks in a cage and then told his assistant “Take this and put it with my stuff.”)

  45. Vern – I think the EASTERN PROMISES sequel intrigues me in that….its Cronenberg making his first sequel. He didn’t do that for THE FLY or VIDEODROME or SCANNERS or so on several movies where he could have popped off a potential sequel.

    Surely he’s decided to spend his precious time and effort on something like this because there is something to explore here. And hey he apparently likes working with Viggo (and visa versa) because Viggo came in at the last minute to replace the Jew Hunter on that Freud movie.

  46. Man I’m pumped for the Eastern Promises sequel. There probably won’t be a single sequence that comes anywhere near the naked fight, but Nikolai is an absolutely fascinating character and I’m dying to see where they take him.

  47. CrustaceanHate, I have 3 nephews. They are 7, 10 and 12 . I watch a lot of movies with them (actually I watch a lot of movies with the youngest two, my oldest nephew is at an age he doesn’t want to hang out with his brothers) and I consciously try to only show them quality movies to balance out all the crap they watch with their parents. They loved Ponyo and Spirited Away. However, come to think of it I did show them Suburban Commando starting Hulk Hogan and Christopher Loyd and they loved that to. Hey I can show them classics all the time.

  48. Jareth Cutestory

    March 30th, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Mr. S: If you’re saying that Viggronenberg would be better served by making an entirely different movie, I can see your point. Part of the fun of Viggronenberg is how wildly different EASTERN PROMISES was from A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.

    If there has to be an EASTERN PROMISES sequel, I’d prefer that they didn’t just continue the same story. I like Naomi Watts, but I kind of think her part of the story is done. They could move off on another tangent entirely. God knows they barely scratched the surface of the gangster world in the first film.

  49. Nice “scarlet letter” joke/reference at the end there!

  50. “Former actor Jason Lee”

    Oh, how I laughed. And then, how I cried.

  51. Man, I didn’t know anyone else had seen Kurt Russell as Dexter. That makes
    my day. I wish he’d make another one too, maybe it could have to do withj
    time travel as he is now much older.

  52. Vern et al — I’m not trying to disparage the good name of the PHANTASM sequels (which I too enjoy) or imply that this is some kind of cash grab on the part of Cronenberg. I know Cronenberg’s never done a sequel before and I’m sure they have a cool idea which is inspiring them to do this. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad Cronenberg film (although I haven’t seen FAST COMPANY or M BUTTERFLY, so maybe).

    That having been said, though, I do tend to get frustrated by sequels from truly visionary directors. There’s just a diminishing return which sets in most of the time, no matter how well handled the sequel material is. There are a few sequels which exceed the original (I won’t insult you by naming them) but a sequel (or squeakuel, probably) has almost by definition one crippling disadvantage: you’ve been in this world before.

    The best directors, the ones (like Cronenberg) that really get to me, don’t just tell stories – they build worlds. I’ve seen nearly all of Cronenberg’s films, and although there are similarities between them, they all have their own unique tone, iconography, and universe. A big part of the joy of seeing a Cronenberg movie, to me, is the heady rush of disovering the personality of the newest world he’s been playing in, soaking it in, looking at the details, learning the rules. There’s a giddy pleasure in that sense of discovery that I don’t think any sequel has ever really been able to capture. Sequels rely on our familiarity with a universe and character set, and use that as a starting point to complicate our understanding of those factors, add depth and texture (or, just repeat the same things we liked before, but I doubt Cronenberg will be doing that).

    Which is great, too. I mean, I’m actually probably more tolerant of sequels than most nerds. I’ve seen all the sequels to PHANTASM, NIGHTMARE, TEXAS CHAINSAW and even recently PSYCHO (thanks, Vern). I’m a staunch defender or the prequels, I argued passionately for the merits of the MATRIX sequels and even the POTC sequels. I openly admit that I think DIE HARD 2 is fantastic! I watched BEFORE SUNSET and enjoyed it, for fuck’s sake! I watched and enjoyed THE TWO JAKES! I think they all have interesting ideas and clever extensions of the worlds which we fell in love with in the original. The fact is, there’s always more story to tell when you have interesting characters in an interesting world.

    But.

    Interesting and worthwhile as I think all those things are, they never recapture that sense of heady joy that I get from falling into a new world created by a master word-builder. There’s not a single moment in either of the MATRIX sequels which matches the gleeful unfurling of mystery in the original, no matter how many other ideas and awesome sequences they pack into it. For all the rich details and surprising depth of the preqeuls, they can never quite recapture that initial joy of plunging into Lucas’ exquisitly overwrought imagination for the first time. I don’t think a sequel can ever really give you that. They’re just a different beast, and no matter how well they work with their different set of tools, I don’t think they can ever quite recapture the intensity of experience that comes from discovering something new and amazing.

    So, with guys like Don Corscarelli and Cronenberg– and others– well, you only get to make so many films in a lifetme. I love them because they come up with worlds and ideas I could never imagine on my own, and, selfisly, I want them to give me as many experiences as they can. Once you create a world, I can imagine it continuing. But the best cinematc imaginers of our time create works of beauty and horror and nuance and even mundanity which give me the joy of experiencing something I could never have had on my own. Before EASTERN PROMISES, I could never have imagined that world into being. But I can imagine a sequel. And from an artist as powerfully unique as Cronenberg, I consider that something of a loss.

    I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic film, and I can almost gaurentee that I’ll like it. But a part of me will wonder, epecially once there are no more new Cronenberg films, what new world we missed out on while he finished working in an old one.

  53. Ok… I am still baffled by the level of Cronenberg love on this site. I couldn’t watch “Crash” (through boredom, not terror). I thought “Existenz” was a complete mess that threw a few vaguely interesting sci-fi related ideas into a melting pot and forgot to do anything interesting in terms of character, atmosphere, visuals or creating a believable world. I found “The Fly” completely unmemorable. I very much liked “a history of violence” which is certainly the best film of his that I’ve seen, but it’s not a film I’d go out of my way to watch again. And I can’t recall another Cronenberg film that I’ve seen although I expect there are probably one or two out there.

    Seriously guys, what on earth am I missing? What’s the definitive Cronenberg film that I should definitely see? Because it sure as hell ain’t one of the ones I’ve named above.

    Also, on a sociological note, how the heck did the “Alvin and the Chipmonks” forum get hijacked into a discussion on a director whose speciality seems to be filming the goriest stuff possible in as much detail as possible?

  54. […] Alvin and the Chipmunks (not the squeakquel – the nutriginal) | The Life and Art of Vern […]

  55. Paul: VIDEODROME is required viewing, and you might want to try his early stuff like THE BROOD and SHIVERS.

  56. I don’t know, The Fly is Cronenberg at his most accessible, while still being entirely and unmistakeably Cronenbergian. If you can’t get into that, Cronenberg might just not be for you. There’s no shame in it. It happens. I find that I don’t enjoy Takeshi Kitano’s movies as much as I think I should.

  57. I agree with everything Majestyk said except for the part about shame.

  58. Paul – neither CRASH nor ExiStenz is among the guy’s best work, but I’m inclined to agree with Mr M that if you had no fun at all with THE FLY you may just be missing the chromosome that allows you to like his work. Id say DEAD RINGERS is Cronenberg at his most elegant. EASTERN PROMISES might be his most focused. SPIDER may be the most immersive. And VIDEODROME is a triumph of bizarre vision. I’d try those before I entirely wrote him off.

  59. Subtlety, my friend…

    Sorry to respond so late to your post on sequels, but I did want to make the counter-argument that sometimes directors are great because of the familiarity and consistency they bring to their work… almost as if they have “built” one world that some, many, or all of their movies take place in.

    You posted on my blog a while back about Kurosawa, and he might be a good example. A number of his samurai/adventure movies aren’t technically related, but seem like they could exist in the same world. And it’s a world I’ve enjoyed revisiting, I’ve enjoyed seeing new stories take place there. And now that I think about it, of course SANJURO is technically a sequel to YOJIMBO (really more of a light hearted remake) and of course the best part of it is that you get to return to that world and that character and see them in a new context.

    None of the Yasujiro Ozu films I have seen are sequels, but he established such a clear, defined style that they could have been. Ditto Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION and JACKIE BROWN. Part of the pleasure is in the way they return you to a familiar, established world. I’m sure there are plenty of other beloved filmmakers you could add to this list as well… Woody Allen, Jacques Tati, Dario Argento, Sam Fuller… I don’t know specifically what floats your boat, but I bet there are a few filmmakers you greatly admire that didn’t so much build new worlds as they did return to and refine one world.

    My point being that, if we agree that Cronenberg crafted/explored a great character and setting in EASTERN PROMISES, and we agree that he’s fairly consistent in terms of quality, then why not let him play with those toys again if he thinks he has a good idea what to do with them? Heck, it’s already in a weird way sort of a spiritual sequel to HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, their settings may be different but there’s so much overlap in tone, style and theme that they kinda are in the same world.

  60. Jareth Cutestory

    April 1st, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Mr. Subtlety: I largely agree with your earlier comments on sequels, particularly those made by visionary directors. Your point becomes more urgent when you think of examples like the direction Spielberg might have gone after MUNICH if that damn INDIANA JONES flick hadn’t come up. I think it’s entirely possible that we’ll never see the director who made MUNICH again.

    My big problem with most sequels is how rigidly formulaic they tend to be. If the marketing department was given less sway over “branding” and “franchising” a popular film, we might see room for innovation in how we conceive of sequels, like the strategies adopted by Wong Kar Wai and Ming-liang Tsai in their sequels.

    Also, I like how the sequel to SUICIDE CIRCLE basically said: “Oh, here’s some other stuff that was happening to other characters at the same time as the first film.” That worked well for me.

    This more-of-the-same-but-bigger mentality just has to stop. It’s such a joke.

    Paul: If DEAD RINGERS doesn’t creep you out, Cronenberg might not be your cup of tea.

  61. Dan — I hear you on that, but I guess I don’t quite consider the similarities between auterurs’ works to be quite the same as a sequel. I mean, since we’re on the topic of Cronenberg, the guy definitely has a distinct style and I can see what you’re saying that in some ways its almost like we get various stories from Cronenberg-world told throughout his filmography. Same with Kurosawa, Ozu, Allen, etc, as you mention.

    But I guess I feel more like the similarities are the result of different worlds being created by the same unique minds, rather than direct extensions of the same world. I mean Cronenberg films have some things in common, but actually each as a pretty unique character to it. I don’t think I could pick out two that feel tonally and topically similar enough to be comperable to sequels (maybe SHIVERS and THE BROOD? But even between those two there’s a huge divide in structure and tone). Something YOJIMBO and HIDDEN FORTRESS do feel like they’re set in the same universe, I guess, but there’s still a joy in discovering the characters and structure. To me a sequel takes a given scenario and explores it further, and while you correctly point out that those independent films have notable similarities, I still think you get to start fresh at each new one in a way which sequels can’t quite do.

    Of course, that’s not a hard, fast rule. PHANTASM II is such a radically different film from the first in its tone, execution, and handling of the characters that it kinda stands on its own (of course, 3 and 4 are pretty much the same thing, and hence a little less interesting). Obviously, ALIENS and TERMINATOR 2 similarly make major changes which hugely distinguish them from the originals. And sometimes a story is so compelling that I’ll watch it evolve even past a solid ending to an original (GODFATHER 2, there, I said it.) And hell, I don’t want to trash sequels. As I said above, I usually enjoy them. But, hmm. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but for me personally… there’s something about exploring something brand fucking new which I find fulfilling on a certain level which I just don’t usually get from sequels.

    So, I’m sure I’ll like EP 2, and I’m sure Cronenberg knows what hes doing and will blow me away again. But a slight part of my is just kinda selfishly sad that it’ll be a few more years before I get to experience that feeling again with one of my favorite filmmakers. Then again, maybe EP 2 will be set in outer space or will be a musical comedy or something and I’ll have to admit I was being a mopey prick for no reason.

    Also, it’s part of the general bummer I have about any cool new movie which comes out and inevitably people start talking franchise. Not Cronenberg’s fault or his MO, but how much does the world really need an AVATAR 2 or DISTRICT 10? Sure, there are other cool things you can think to do with those universes, but does that mean we’re obliged to do them? Are there no other new ideas out there to play with? So, some of my negativity is about that, not specifically EP 2. Let a complete story speak for itself, says I. Then I yell at those damn kids to stay off my lawn, etc.

  62. But if/when EASTERN PROMISES 2 turns out to be a great movie, even better than the first, will you come back to this board and eat your hat

    Seriously though, your points are all fair.

  63. Jareth Cutestory

    April 2nd, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Dan: We can only see the brim of Mr. S’s hat in his picture. What if it’s a stove top hat? That’s quite the meal.

  64. Yeah, actually I’ve been meaning to ask Subtlety about that picture. What the hell is it supposed to be? Disco Fassbinder?

  65. Jareth Cutestory

    April 3rd, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Disco Fassbinder! If you pitched that phrase at a meeting of the writers of Saturday Night Live, they would make you their king.

  66. Hey, you’d be wearing that too if you were drunk and listening to the Specials. Sadly I can’t promise any hat-eating if Cronenberg delivers his usual level of greatness. Doesn’t really seem appropriate for a Cronenberg film anyway. Maybe I can promise to get in a naked knife fight? Or develope a horrible, pulsating, mutating disfigurement? Or maybe just have perverse, kinky sex with Debbie Harry?

  67. That last one is only an act of contrition if you do it with 2010 Debbie Harry. Going back in time and fucking VIDEODROME Debbie Harry should be your prize if you turn out to be right about Cronenberg doing sequels.

  68. Oh shit, you’re right. She was still lookin pretty good as of SPUN in 2002, but it looks like the years have caught up with her recently. Ah who am I kidding? I can’t say no to you, Debbie. And in fact its probably more Cronenbergian this way. Or at least Vincent Gallo would approve.

  69. The Original Paul

    August 7th, 2015 at 5:52 am

    Did I actually say THE FLY was unmemorable here?

    What the fuck was I thinking?

    Sorry… just reading over some old reviews and wanted to correct that.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>