Look, I'm not proud. I like Alvin & The Chipmunks. I find speeded up voices really quite funny. Happily, the first film married the squeakiness with a decent script and seamless CGI, to create one of the most enjoyable kids' movies for a while. This one, with the appalling pun title (which, yes, I also find quite funny) is more of the same.
There are, it must be said, a lot of nay-sayers out there (3.5 out of 10 on IMDb? Really?) but that's somewhat baffling. This is considerably better than any number of children's films this year. Hell, it's better than any number of grown-up movies too. The plot, admittedly, is hardly-earth shattering. With Alvin & The Chipmunks soaring high in the music industry, dependable sidekick Dave (Jason Lee) thinks Alvin needs a lesson in humility and a bit of time living a normal life. So he enrols them in school. Unfortunately, the dependable sidekick is sidelined by an unfortunate accident (Lee had a scheduling conflict, basically) which leaves Alvin, Theo and Simon under the charge of Dave's cousin, Toby (Levi) who's not exactly the paternal, dependable sort. Still, chances that Toby will learn a lesson or two about responsibility by the time the film ends? Yeah, they're pretty high ...
School throws up new challenges for the boys. First of all, there's not getting trodden on, which isn't easy when you're the approximate size of a sausage roll. Then there's the domineering jocks who are rather jealous of the chipmunks' fame and popularity. Then there's Alvin's desperate need for popularity which seems him joining the football team and leaving Theo and Simon to fend for themselves. And finally, there are the girls. No, not the cheerleaders. The lady chipmunks. Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor (voiced by Applegate, Faris and Poehler). Who also sing and represent the best chance for con man Ian (Cross, shamelessly funny) to get one over on Alvin and co.
Will the boys fall for the girls and vice versa? Will Alvin learn a lesson about the importance of friendship? Will Ian get another comeuppance? Will all the chipmunks combine talents and somehow win the Battle of the Bands competition and save their school's music programme? Even though the answer features a reference to ursine toilet habits and the Pope's religious beliefs, the 90 minutes spent getting there are fine, fun entertainment.
The CGI rodents sit convincingly in the frame. The jokes are generally good (including a brilliant and cruel, if obvious, fart gag), the music is fun (Single Ladies has never sounded better), Thomas keeps it all rattling along and if you can keep a straight face when Cross does his dance routine / puppet show at the end, you're a better man than I. All in all, a pretty damn good diversion for the family over the festive period. Bring on the third movie.
SECOND OPINION | Stuart O'Connor **** As kids' films go, the first Alvin & The Chipmunks was pure joy. And it's great to be able to report that the "squeakuel" continues in the same high-pitched vein. At the Saturday morning preview screening I attended, the film kept almost every child in the audience rapt for it's entire running time, which makes it a winner in my book. Sure, it's easy-watching entertainment, and there some decent gags to be had, but what really struck me was how seamlessly the live action and CGI have been blended – I've honeslty never seen better. One question, though. When the chipmunk voices are so engineered to be almost incomprehensible, what's the point in hiring big-name, not-cheap names such as Poehler, Farris and Applegate to produce them?