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'Chipwrecked': Alvin and other chipmunks are lost at sea, critics say

December 16, 2011 |  2:11 pm

When it comes to movie franchises, many series seem to stumble on the third film. Now the same fate as "The Godfather: Part III" and "Return of the Jedi" appears to have befallen "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked." The combined live-action and CGI adventure about singing furballs and their human caretaker being stranded on a desert island has not fared well at all with movie critics.

The Times' Betsy Sharkey says the "Chipmunks" series "may have finally run completely aground," with its latest installment lacking the "inspired silliness" of the previous films. Despite "Chipwrecked" boasting the comedic talents of Justin Long, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate, Sharkey says, "their presence basically goes for naught, with any identifying traits or emotional range lost in the helium squeak of that trademark chipmunk sound." Sharkey also laments the film's pop song covers — until now a funny highlight of the series, but in this case "terribly tame."

In the Washington Post, Sean O'Connell suggests that nothing in his review, or the film itself, will persuade either Alvin fans or detractors to change their minds. O'Connell writes, "'Chipwrecked' serves up more of the derivative chaos that floats this franchise's boat. Fans will consider it an early Christmas present. Detractors will be happy to sing a different tune."

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Nell Minow says the film "is a little brighter and sweeter than its predecessors," and that its best section sees the chipmunks being "pushed outside of their usual personas." That said, Minow agrees with Sharkey that the voice talents are unrecognizable and the songs are equally bland. A silver lining for adult viewers, so to speak, is "a running time under 90 minutes."

Neil Genzlinger's review in the New York Times is hardly a rave, but he does refer to the film as "harmless fun" and says that David Cross, who plays the villain Ian, "delivers the film's funniest speech." Less successful, Genzlinger says, are the many jokes referencing the Tom Hanks film "Cast Away" — an odd choice in a kids film. Genzlinger is also puzzled by how the film earned a G rating, given some of the chipmunks' high-jinks, and why the filmmakers bothered securing recognizable voice actors only to pitch-shift them into anonymity.

San Francisco Chronicle pop culture critic Peter Hartlaub calls "Chipwrecked" "an uninspired and instantly forgettable film" but predicts that it "will probably make a zillion dollars." Although the story is "a jumbled mess," Hartlaub concedes that the film "does have a certain calculated genius," in that it has something to offer kids, teens, parents and even critics (for the last group: "[a]n opportunity to write smug, vaguely self-congratulatory quips about the declining state of culture").

Hartlaub has a point: The "Chipmunk" movies have never been critical darlings, but they've still managed to rake in box-office dollars. If that happens again, it's entirely possible they could return again and try to right the ship.


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— Oliver Gettell

Photo: The Chipettes and Chipmunks in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked." Credit: 20th Century Fox

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