Not since Goin’ Coconuts has a tropical movie misfired on so many cylinders.
No amount of witty lines can lighten arson, murder, and a descent into barbarism.
And that’s what awaits in Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.
With funny moments and charming songs galore, this film fumbled away the chance to become the new standard for trouble-in-paradise musical comedies by choosing Lord of the Flies as a template.
Third in a series of CGI animation/live action films featuring singing ‘munk siblings, ‘Chipwrecked’ reunites Simon, Theodore, and Alvin (voiced by Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney and Justin Long.) This latest version opens in amiable—if predictable fashion—with our trio embarking on a cruise ship while chaperoned by long suffering songwriter Dave (Jason Lee).
Light-hearted mayhem erupts as the playful chipmunks disrupt shipboard routine and drive Dave to screaming distraction. However a glider mishap results in Dave, the Chipmunks, the Chipettes (three female singing chipmunks) and the film’s heavy— Ian Hawke (David Cross)—landing on a deserted island.
(Sound familiar? The device of stranding someone via plane crash first surfaced in Defoe’s 1719 classic, Robinson Crusoe.)
Once the characters were isolated, the movie’s tone changed dramatically.
While moments of hijinx remained, they clashed jarringly with the dark world established by director Mike Mitchell. Freed from civilized restraint, we see Alvin transform into the primitive of author Golding’s Lord of the Flies. His savage reversion pits him against the social intelligence of Simon as well as Theodore’s Piggy-like faith in science and order.
Meanwhile Ian Hawke, dressed in a pelican costume, represents birds who feast primarily on sea food.
Our castaways quarrel, unable to agree on the smallest matters because the chipmunks burst into song anytime things don’t go their way.
Eventually two “tribes” form around Alvin and Dave. Alvin incites his group into a murderous frenzy, leading them to war against Dave’s band, torching the island to smoke out the exasperated songwriter. Several brutal ambush scenes are interspersed with uptempo tunes. Best of the lot included, “Alvin Took the Conch,” “Pighead Party Palooza,” and “Let’s Kill Simon For His Eye Glasses.”
Alas, ‘Chipwrecked’ is a tale of two films that fit together as poorly as chastity and Lady Gaga. Commit to seeing one or the other. My advice would be to watch any movie in the cineplex for 30 minutes, then dart in to catch the island portion of ‘Chipwrecked.’
Or else exit the film as soon as Alvin and company crash land. Then go to the lobby and demand a refund by screaming and threatening to sue. (I often do this despite getting in free on my reviewer pass and it’s paid for a lot of popcorn.)
Three stars out of five for bouncy musical numbers and a surprise ending involving a volcano and the awakening of King Ghidorah, three-headed foe of Godzilla.