So once again we have survived.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

tn_squeakquelThe life cycle of urban slang:

Stage 1: The miracle of birth. Somewhere in the United States, young African Americans decide to start using “holla” (as in “holler”) to describe talking to each other. “If you need anything, holla at me.”

Stage 2: The use of “holla” spreads and evolves. At some point, a rapper decides to yell it to a crowd, a call for a response. “HOLLA!” It becomes a trademark catchphrase for the Rocafella label. Other rappers like it, want to get in on the action.

Stage 3: Holla becames available for home use. People full of hot air who are in jobs where it’s important to maintain an image of with-it-ness (mostly commercial radio DJs and BET hosts) overuse the term.

Stage 4: White people find out and start using it. They sort of have a sense of what it might mean, but it doesn’t matter because it’s divorced of all context. It’s supposed to automatically denote insider status or “being down.” The meaning of the word “Holla!” is now “I have heard this word, ‘Holla!’ and I can prove it by saying it out loud!”

Final stage: A cartoon animal or elderly person says it in a movie, and that’s supposed to be funny.

Note: This scene also contains fistbumping
Note: This scene also contains fistbumping


mp_alvinsqueakquelIn the opening of BABE PIG IN THE CITY, if I remember right, the pig’s innocent curiosity caused an accident that put the farmer in traction. This gave the pig a tremendous guilt and was the motivation for the story: with the farmer unable to work the bank tries to claim his property, and the pig must perform in a fair to try to get some money.

In the opening of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL Alvin’s egomaniacal stage-hogging causes an accident that puts Dave in traction, and this is just an excuse for Jason Lee to get out of filming for more than one or two days.

The movie seems to admit that its title character is an obnoxious little shit. Over the title he maniacally cackles, “We’re baaaaa-aaaaack!” like he’s taunting the poor sucker parents who took their kids to see this. Shortly after that the hospital staff knocks Alvin unconscious with a sedative to get him out of their hair, and his brother Simon requests another dose.

But I gotta say, this is a far more competent movie than the first one, and that’s kind of disappointing. For squeakquel they got once semi-respectable director Betty Thomas (PRIVATE PARTS, THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE, LATE SHIFT) and even cine-nut-tographer Anthony B. Richmond (DON’T LOOK NOW, THE INDIAN RUNNER), and they made it a little saner and more pleasant looking. It’s not improved enough to be an actual good movie, but it makes alot more sense, so unfortunately it’s not BATMAN AND ROBIN to the first one’s BATMAN FOREVER.

This time Simon is portrayed as a nerd, so now all three chipmunks have recognizably different personalities. They made Alvin’s popularity and spotlight hogging a theme, so now it almost makes sense that the group is called “Alvin and the Chipmunks” even though the three of them just do the exact same thing at the same time and there isn’t really a leader. Instead of just having them run around pooping and breaking things this one has more quiet moments and character subplots where they try to be good brothers and what not. Emotional stuff. I mean, in the middle of the most sentimental scene, where Theodore goes looking for adult support after a nightmare, he almost gets suffocated by a fart. But still, they’re obviously making more of an effort to create a passable movie.

Part of the idea of the movie is actually pretty funny too. Since they’re going with this idea of talking chipmunks being treated as human children they might as well go all the way with it, so they send them to high school. It’s kinda funny to see them trying not to get stepped on in the halls, getting attention from human girls, getting picked on by jocks, and especially getting nailed in dodgeball. But then it just turns into a battle of the bands thing because their old nemesis (David Cross) has a new trick up his sleeve: “girl chipmunks.”

This is definitely the crazy fucked up part of the movie: a trio of girl versions of the Chipmunks show up in the mail. There’s no explanation for why these three can talk, since there was no explanation for why the original three could talk. They literally look like the Chipmunks with girl’s hair and eyelashes added, but the two trios are immediately attracted to their opposite gendered doppelgangers. They want to love themselves in drag. I guess you could argue it would be even weirder if they were attracted to girls who looked exactly like their brothers, or that it’s more fucked up that there are human girls screaming lustily for a chipmunk in this movie. But still man, this shit is weird. It’s like Patrick Swayze in ROAD HOUSE dating Patrick Swayze in TO WONG FOO.

I gotta admit, there’s actually a couple pretty funny lines in this one, and sometimes it gets a chuckle just by showing adult professionals treating animals as children, like when the music teacher calls home because she’s worried about a chipmunk seeming depressed and unmotivated. But more often there are scenes of people tripping over things or falling down stairs (including a nice old lady in a wheelchair who’s introduced into the story only to be immediately disposed of by dumping her backwards down some stairs). The biggest headscratcher for me was when Alvin says his friend Digger is gonna help, and then a talking cartoon mole pops out of the ground and says one line and then is never seen or mentioned again. Looking it up on Google I learned that 1. lots of other people had to look that up to figure out what the hell it was 2. it was the mascot for a certain camera used on Fox coverage of NASCAR races but they abandoned it because everybody thought it was stupid. 3. I still don’t think I get it.

By the way, “squeakquel” means “sequel” in chipmunk language, not “prequel.” Chipmunks call a “prequel” a “pawquel.”

In the review of the first movie I didn’t talk about the music. It doesn’t make sense that the Chipmunks become huge stadium-playing rock stars just by singing high pitched cover songs, but I guess that’s what the old Chipmunk novelty records mostly were anyway. Except for the Christmas song and that experimental period when they were hanging out with Ornette Coleman and doing a residency at the Knitting Factory and all that stuff.

So not surprisingly the songs in these movies are a new level of crap – taking mostly familiar songs and doing them not only in sped up voices, but with vocal arrangements for the American Idol/High School Musical type of tacky vocal theatrics and robot voiced studio tricks. Alvin even sounds auto-tuned sometimes in this one! Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of a singing chipmunk? If he can’t stay in tune without computers he could be just any chipmunk off the streets.

But there’s something kind of hilariously awful about the girl chipmunks singing the song “Single Ladies” by Beyonce and doing the dance from the video. I’m rarely up on popular music and that was a song I had heard of without actually hearing it, but I did see whichever award show that was where Kanye West interrupted the teenage country singer and told her she didn’t deserve the award because Beyonce made “one of the best videos of all time. OF ALL TIME.” With that kind of acclaim I had to look it up on the youtube or whatever.

Well, it’s no “Smooth Criminal” that’s for sure, but it’s a catchy as hell song and a cool video, the way it’s all done like it’s one continuous shot with them doing this weird dance and all this. I like it. However, I do not feel that it is appropriate material for teenage singing chipmunks. They are much too young to be singing about “if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.” I mean god forbid the boy Chipmunks take that to heart and get married at that young age. You really think a talking chipmunk who has everything he wants, never had to work a day in his life and has only just now begun school should settle down with the first exact girl duplicate of himself that he meets? I think that would be a big mistake. He needs to live more, he needs to meet more people and animals, he needs to sew his wild nuts with some of those human girls that were flirting with him. Only then will he know if he truly loves the girl version of himself.

In fact, Dave is their father figure and he didn’t settle down until well into his 30s. I don’t know about chipmunks, but humans tend to follow the patterns set by their parents. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alvin ends up raising three asshole bees or caterpillars or something and calling them a family, to impress Girl Alvin when she thinks he’s not mature enough for her.

Shit, I wonder what happened to their real parents? There could be a serious lawsuit somewhere down the line, those gold digger chipmunk parents might show up and try to cash in on all their success, and take them away from Dave. I don’t know what kind of legal claim he really has to them. It would be like her family in MILLION DOLLAR BABY when they show up. There’s alot of interesting stuff that could happen in the next one, obviously titled ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: PORT OF SQUIRREL NEW ORLEANS. I think they should skip ahead 30 years and have past-their-prime Chipmunks staging a pathetic comeback tour, living in filth because they don’t own any of their publishing, because all they did was sing songs by the Monkees and the Kinks and stuff. And probly Alvin wouldn’t even be in that one, he left the group and was replaced by a different animal like twelve years ago.

Now, I’m not gonna get mad about these movies existing. If kids and stoners want to watch it that’s fine. But it is a little sad that it would be such a huge hit in a year when there’s no shortage of family movies that treat kids and parents with respect and expend huge amounts of effort and artistic expression on them instead of just cynically throwing products at them. UP made more money but otherwise SQUEAKQUEL destroyed them all. As you can see in the chart below there were four beloved instant classic family movies in 2009 that you could add the box office of together to almost equal what SQUEAKQUEL made.

I believe that if a straight to video UNIVERSAL SOLDIER sequel can be great then a talking chipmunk movie can be better this. And some of the movies below (which don’t even include all the animated and family movies I heard were good this year, just the ones I happened to see) prove that some people who make these movies take their jobs seriously. So I guess the bad news is that they’re not getting rewarded as well as they should, but the good news is they’re out there.

APPENDIX A: approximate U.S. box office for selected 2009 family films:

UP – $293 million
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL – $218 million
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE – $77 million
CORALINE – $75 million
THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX – $20 million
PONYO – $15 million

Okay guys, I promise the next review I post will not have talking animals in it. And to reward you for getting this far I want to share an old video by Kanye West (in collaboration with the director of one of the above movies) that’s actually better than that Beyonce video he called the greatest of all time. Is it possible that Kanye was actually being humble?

I guess you can’t embed this one but trust me, it’s worth your three minutes. click here

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 Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 at 7:23 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.

31 Responses to “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel”

  1. The unfortunate reality about talking, anthropomorphic chipmunks who achieve stardom at a young age is that it never turns out well in the end. I hope that the third movie shows Alvin’s decline into painkillers and petty crime that is inevitable for all youth animal stars, just so kids understand that chipmunk superstardom isn’t all farts and acorns.

    And shame on Dave for living out his failed ambitions through his pets.

  2. I love Coraline so much. I read that book a couple years ago, gave it to my little brother Quinton and he flipped for the book even more then I did. Then I got a couple days off from school in February, so I made a point to find a couple hours to take him to see it. It was a blast, me and him knew the story so we were laughing and enjoying all the scary parts, while meanwhile all the other kids in the theater were screaming and freaking out.

    It was a good time.

  3. I consider it an afront that Coraline didn’t get Vernitized, but the fucking Squeakquel did. Hilarious pair of reviews though.

  4. Vern – Unfortunately I think your FANTASTIC MR. FOX and WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE are the sort of movies that nobody goes to see but instead in a few years everybody will be claming to be the only guy in the theatre on opening weekend or whatever bullshit they say now for MONSTER SQUAD.

    Still CORALINE being a sleeper hit was a pleasant surprise. Good for Selick.

    Vern, hated that we didn’t get your reviews on all those you listed (aside from WHERE, which you did review). Maybe could have bumped FOX maybe a ticket or two more. Pity since that was maybe Wes Anderson’s most accessible (and quite frankly, entertaining) movie.

  5. The Nostalgia Chick did a pretty good video on cartoon characters being attracted to their eyelash-added versions: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thedudette/nostalgia-chick/16616-the-smurfette-principle .

  6. “Fuck a LOTTA chipmunks, kid. I have no reason to lie to you. Not just one. A LOT of chipmunks.”
    – Grandpa, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

    Also, your paragrapha about Auto-Tune really made me laugh.

  7. Excellent work, Vern. I must say these last reviews are the most interesting thing I’ve read regarding Alvin and the chimpfucks. Although I have to say what really got my juices flowing was that reference to BABE: PIG IN THE CITY you made up there. I know you, being a smart gentleman, respect the shit out of George Miller and let me say right here and now that to me the Babe movies are fuckin’ masterpieces. So, without further ado, I ask of you: Will you ever review those talking-animal movies? Since you made that promise now I know I can’t expect them any time soon, but please sir, give it a shot. Thanks.

  8. The Kanye video was nuts. I was most surprised by how small the woman appeared when she stood next to the car. She appeared so monumental prior to that.

  9. Hey Vern, are you going to review John Woo’s Red Cliff? Having just watched it (international cut), I have a feeling you’re going to love the shit out of that movie. It has the ultimate badass juxtaposition scene. One of the generals rescuing a baby ties it to his back and then proceeds to kick major ass. I would say that at the moment its my favorite of all Woo’s films.
    Especially having seen most of his stuff, its really nice to see him going back to all his trademarks, like the amazing dove shot, the mexican standoff (but with swords and bow and arrow, awesome), brotherly loyalty, etc. I would also venture to guess that it has more people killed on screen than any other movie in history, even topping hard boiled.

  10. I thought WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE was kind of boring, but I respect the risks they took with it

  11. Check out THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, Vern. Pretty good stuff if you appreciate Disney’s New Wave era.

    I’ve never thought it a coincidence that it took Spike to turn Kanye’s best song into his best video.

  12. For what its worth that was actually the second time for Kanye to run on stage to shit on other peoples videos. I think it was the MTV European Music Awards and he lost to the French Electro Duo Justice.

    Here is the link to the award show:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTJxj7a9-DA&feature=PlayList&p=BF3D8F7C4BE67FBD&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=3

    And feed your curiosity here is the Video that won:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5fiTTAHq0M

    And for the guys that dont know Justice heres a link to the trailer for their first world tour docu:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m86PPD5awyk

  13. The guy who shot DON”T LOOK NOW shit this thing?

    That’s it, I’m done. Who knows how to make a hangman’s noose?

  14. That was an honest-to-god unintentionally Freudian shit. I mean, SLIP!

  15. “Holla” is just Hello is spanish, for christ’s sakes. In my country Portugal we use the expression “Tchau” to say good-bye, and it’s a corruption of the italian word “ciao” which means “good-bye”. But nobody makes a fuzz about it. So what if people are now using a spanish word for Hello? Big deal! i mean, if a language didn’t acepted the ocasional foreign word, half the english language wouldn’t exist. English is not just from language of the anglo-saxons, there’s lot of french included.

    Really, big deal!

  16. I’d like to know in what byzzaro world is THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG set in. Black people acting and dressing as 19th century european nobility? What the fuck is that bullshit? Talk about blacksploitation! That is not surreal, it’s just stupid.

  17. How the fucking fuck did Fantastic Mr. Fox only make 20 million?

  18. Smith- They barely released it.

  19. Grim Grinning Chris

    March 31st, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Asimov… The movie is set in New Orleans in the 20s. The only time the characters are dressed in traditional fairy tale garb is in the context of a costume ball.

  20. The pre-roll commercial for the Kanye video was a Taylor Swift ad, which is pretty funny.

  21. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeugh. “Up”. Just didn’t get me like Wall-E got me. I thought it all went downhill after the first twenty minutes (which is kind of ironic given that it’s a film about a guy with a flying house). Good film… but something missing there.

    All the same, box office figures can definitely make depressing reading sometimes.

  22. nabroleon Dynamite

    March 31st, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    @Asminov.

    I think you got “Hola” confused with “Holla”

    Holla doesn’t mean “Hello”

    Holla means “Get at me.” or “see you later”

    So asminov, if you overstand what I’m saying then holla!!

  23. Nabrolean is right, Asimov. “Hola” and “holla” are not the same word. “Holla” is not pronounced “hola,” not spelled “hola,” does not mean “hello” and is not Spanish, and some of its meaning and history are already explained in the review if you would like more (the same) information about it.

    Other than those few details you are correct, I guess. (?)

  24. ‘Word’ is currently spreading through my place of employment like wildfire. It usually precedes ‘to your mother’. As someone who used ‘word’ unironically back in the day, it is pretty annoying. At this rate, ‘holla’ should come into vogue some time around 2023.
    Nice reviews, Vern. Slightly unnerving subject matter for you, but a fun read nonetheless.
    “It’s like Patrick Swayze in ROAD HOUSE dating Patrick Swayze in TO WONG FOO.”
    Word.

  25. Jareth Cutestory

    March 31st, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Vern: The advertisements for this CHIPMUNKS dvd says that there is a bonus disc of “games and sing-along” material. So my question is this: did you play the games and sing-along?

  26. “obviously titled ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: PORT OF SQUIRREL NEW ORLEANS”

    lol, nice.

  27. What year to do you work in, Bryan?

  28. “obviously titled ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: PORT OF SQUIRREL NEW ORLEANS”

    see RRA, I told you that thing had legs on it

  29. Mr. S – Shit fuck cock damn mother fucker…

  30. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: PORT OF SQUIRREL NEW ORLEANS. Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Viggo Mortensen. The world will never be the same.

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