If only for the sake of adults, couldn’t the folks behind the Alvin films have had the good grace to turn Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel into a musical? Like the original big-screen Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007), this new one is a slapstick pacifier, the kind of movie that features gags like Simon getting three-point-shotted into a wastebasket by an angry jock. Yes, griping about intentionally stupid jokes in an intentionally silly sequel seems like a churlish and rather pointless thing to do. Yet when Alvin, Simon, and Theodore take the stage to perform a number like “You Really Got Me” (sounding more like a pip-squeak Van Halen than the Kinks), or when they twirl around on top of a blender and toss off a smokin’ a cappella version of “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” it’s funky, charming, and — yes — irresistible. In the age of Glee and American Idol, when even little kids groove on the pop of different eras, the songs in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel are natural-born showstoppers.
The trouble is, there are only three or four of them in the whole movie. My hopes were raised with the appearance of the Chipettes, a trio of Bambi-lashed female chipmunks who mail themselves to L.A. in a FedEx packet and sign a contract with Ian Hawk (David Cross), the evil agent-promoter from the first film. But they get to do exactly one song (it’s a goodie, “Single Ladies”). Mostly, we’re stuck with a lame plastic plot that has Alvin and his boys going to high school, plus Zachary Levi (from NBC’s Chuck, essentially taking over for Jason Lee, who makes only a token appearance) doing sub-Adam Sandler routines as the chipmunks’ caretaker. Will kids eat up this cutely fractious claptrap? Of course they will. They’ll eat up whatever you put in front of them. But that doesn’t make The Squeakquel good for them. C-