‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked’ movie review: stale squeakquel at sea

ALLLVIIIN! Generally inoffensive but entirely dull, the best that can be said about Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is that it’s no worse than its immediate predecessors; perhaps a notch below the 2007 film, and a notch above its 2009 Squeakquel. If you (or your kids) enjoyed those films, well, you know what you’re getting into here.

For the rest of us, however, these are troubled waters. A pale memory of the original 1960s TV series created by Ross Bagdasarian (and its 1980s reboot), Chipwrecked is content to pad out its cookie-cutter plot with awkward family values moralizing, stale pop culture references, and grating chipmunk versions of some recent pop hits. Saving grace: a mercifully short running time of under 80 minutes, minus credits and an opening Ice Age short.

Chipwrecked finds Dave (Jason Lee) and his adopted “children”, the Chipmunks Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney), and The Chipettes (gender-swapped versions of the Chipmunks voiced by Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, and Christina Applegate), heading off to the International Music Awards to give a live performance. Via cruise ship, naturally.

While Dave tries to keep the kids in line, Alvin and company are up to their usual hijinks: an ill-advised parasailing incident leaves them stranded overboard, eventually washing up on a deserted island. 

The only other inhabitant is Zoe (Jenny Slate), who has been there for eight years – she may not know who the Chipmunks are, but she did, apparently, see Cast Away, and has had plenty of time to come up with some decade-old gags.

Dave jumps in after the Chipmunks with former record exec Ian (David Cross), now dressed as a pelican mascot, in tow. As they search for the kids, the film recycles stale material from just about every deserted island story imaginable, including (but not limited to) Cast Away, The Lord of the Flies, Swiss Family Robinson, Lost, and Survivor.

For good measure, there are slightly less-stale pop culture gags involving YouTube memes like the double rainbow and the honey badger, and the Chipmunks and Chipettes sing hits from Lady Gaga (Bad Romance), Destiny’s Child (Survivor), Pink (Trouble), Katy Perry (Firework) and others. Irony: the original versions of some of these songs are so shrill and digitized it’s hard to distinguish the Chipmunked versions.

Chipwrecked was directed by Mike Mitchell, who previously made the half-decent Shrek Forever After; he has a grasp over the plotting, and keeps things moving at a reasonable pace. 

The script, however, by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger (Kung Fu Panda) deserts him; dull and unmemorable, all we’re left with is a grab bag of stale jokes. The best: the captain of the cruise ship is named Captain Corelli, after the forgotten 2001 Nicolas Cage movie. Heh.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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