Mis­chievous ro­dents up for more songs, old tricks

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - CALENDAR MOVIES - By Katie Walsh

The per­sis­tence of “Alvin and the Chip­munks” as a cul­tural text is rather baf­fling. The mis­chievous singing ro­dents were cre­ated in 1958 for a nov­elty record, which makes them 57 years old. You’re prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar with that record, as it usu­ally gets some air time this sea­son and fea­tures that inim­itably high-pitched ear worm cho­rus, “Please, Christ­mas, don’t be late.” It’s amaz­ing to think that that song has been tor­ment­ing par­ents for nearly six decades now.

Th­ese are some tena­cious chip­munks, re­fus­ing to be rel­e­gated to the pop cul­ture castoff bin. The char­ac­ters have starred in var­i­ous an­i­mated se­ries through­out the years and were yanked into the mil­len­nium in 2007 with a film fea­tur­ing live-ac­tion per­form­ers along with the chatty chip­munks. It’s been so suc­cess­ful that the fourth in­stall­ment “Alvin and the Chip­munks: The Road Chip” drops this week­end, against “Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens.” As coun­ter­pro­gram­ming, it’s kind of ge­nius, a kid-friendly flick in case you didn’t score tick­ets to the new space ad­ven­ture.

What to say about “Road Chip”? It is a film, it ex­ists, it em­ploys a lot of peo­ple — dancers, mu­si­cians, back­ground ex­tras, co­me­di­ans and char­ac­ter ac­tors — and most ev­ery­one seems to be hav­ing a lot of fun. There’s a wild and upbeat en­ergy that is, ad­mit­tedly, rather in­fec­tious. The names that ap­pear in the open­ing cred­its are eye-pop­ping: Such qual­ity per­form­ers as Tony Hale, Uzo Aduba and Retta pop up. And the there are some star-pow­ered voice per­for­mances MPAA rat­ing: PG (for some mild rude hu­mor and lan­guage)

Run­ning time: 1:26

Opens: Fri­day be­hind the Chip­munks and their fe­male coun­ter­parts, the Chipettes, too, which is curious, be­cause you’d never know it was Justin Long or Anna Faris per­form­ing as Alvin or Jean­nette, re­spec­tively.

The plot fol­lows the Chip­munks from LA to Miami. Their “dad,” Dave (Ja­son Lee), is get­ting se­ri­ous with lady doc­tor Sa­man­tha (Kim­berly Wil­liams-Pais­ley), who comes with a night­mare of a teenage son, Miles (Josh Green). Sus­pect­ing a pro­posal, and not want­ing to unite their fam­i­lies, the Chip­munks and Miles set off to throw a mon­key wrench in the plans. In so do­ing, they man­age to un­leash a crowd of an­i­mals onto a plane, earn­ing the wrath of air mar­shal Suggs (Hale); play a honky tonk sa­loon in Texas; join a Mardi Gras pa­rade in New Or­leans; and fi­nally make it to Miami, where they wreak even more havoc.

Much of the script is or­ga­nized around get­ting the Chip­munks to per­form cov­ers of Top 40 hits in their pe­cu­liar style, and the New Or­leans jazz band version of “Up­town Funk” isn’t that bad. Oth­er­wise it’s stan­dard learn­ing-tolove-your-enemy stuff, with lessons about friend­ship, loy­alty and learn­ing to say sorry, pack­aged in ado­les­cent, fart-for­ward hu­mor, re­ly­ing on gen­der stereo­types and a bizarre ac­cep­tance of talk­ing ro­dents. The comedic bright spot is Hale, who is so fully com­mit­ted in his role as the power-mad air mar­shal that he tran­scends the ma­te­rial and gives a le­git­i­mately funny per­for­mance.

The film is what it is. It’s ju­ve­nile and un­der­de­vel­oped. The ac­tors are clearly per­form­ing to mo­tion­cap­ture place hold­ers in­stead of talk­ing chip­munks. There are re­lent­less song breaks, ref­er­ences to “pizza toots,” and, even more baf­flingly, John Wa­ters shows up, and Alvin ref­er­ences “Pink Flamin­gos.” But ev­ery­one seems to be hav­ing a ball, even if the ma­te­rial and the stay­ing power of Alvin and pals doesn’t make sense.

TWEN­TI­ETH CEN­TURY FOX

Theodore, Alvin, and Si­mon cook up schemes to try to pre­vent “dad”/man­ager Dave from get­ting mar­ried.

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