The true test of film of this sorts is how kids like it. That is the audience it is intended for so a high brow film critique is not the way to go. It is unfair to the film and the filmmakers. Director Betty Thomas (John Tucker Must Die, I Spy) has made a career out of directing films for kids and teens, but this is not a jewel that she will put at the top of her CV.
The world-famous singing trio The Chipmunks are sent back to the U.S. alone after Dave (Jason Lee – from television's My Name is Earl) gets into an Alvin-induced accident and has to recuperate in a French hospital. Alvin (Justin Long – Planet 51, Funny People), Theodore (Jesse McCartney – Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Horton Hears a Who!) and Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler – from television's Criminal Minds) are to go to school while under the care of Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten – from television's Desperate Housewives). Unfortunately, accidents seem to follow The Chipmunks around and Aunt Jackie has a mishap. The three Chipmunks now find themselves under the care of Toby (Zachary Levi – from television's Chuck), a misfit who doesn't really know where he is going in life. The situation is not ideal, but both Toby and The Chipmunks end up learning a lot from each other.
Okay, so the moral message of the film is that you must stay true to yourself. That is not a bad one to be teaching kids, but every kids' film has an important message. This is not enough to set the film above others. So you have to then look at the humour, silly stuff and general frivolity of the film. That is what kids' films should be judged on. How they make the kids laugh. At the preview screening I went to, which was filled with kids from three different primary schools, the kids were strangely silent. No laughter. No shrieks of glee. Maybe except for the requisite fart scene.
Yes, this is a family friendly film, but it tries to be more. With references to other films like "Silence of the Lambs" and "Taxi Driver" the film tries to be hip – which it is not and just makes it look sad for attempting to be. Even the addition of a cool soundtrack and three female chipmunks, The Chipettes – Eleanor (Amy Poehler – from television's Parks and Recreation), Jeanette ( Anna Faris – Observe and Report, The House Bunny) and Brittany (Christina Applegate – from television's Samantha Who?), does not save the film.
The jokes are flat, the story does not draw you in and is just a pale imitation of the first Chipmunks film. The safe bet is that the sequel will not do the boffo box office that the first one did for these reasons and more.