Making the Grades
Kids today may have thousands of songs downloaded on their MP3s but the demise of the record means they'll never experience the amusement of playing a long play album at a higher speed. (Okay, so I was easily entertained as a child.)
However, songwriter Ross Bagdasarian who used the stage name Dave Seville, found a way to do more than amuse himself with the high pitched voices that resulted from the speed infraction. In 1958, he recorded a song for Liberty Records in which he did the voices of three singing chipmunks named Simon, Theodore and Alvin. Thus was born the musical trio who went from a singing career to cartoon characters. Now the threesome is making their way on to the big screen.
In this Alvin and the Chipmunks, the little forest creatures find themselves in the middle of the city after their tree house is cut down and hauled into town for the Christmas season. Hitching a ride in a basket of pastries, they make their way into the condo of Dave Seville (Jason Lee), a struggling songwriter who has just had his latest project slammed by Ian (David Cross), an ambitious record executive.
Alvin (voice by Justin Long), Theodore (voice by Jesse McCartney) and Simon (voice by Matthew Gray Gubler) are anything but housetrained and before long they've left the apartment in shambles. Still Dave is willing to temporarily forgive them when he discovers their melodious abilities---a talent that Ian is equally interested in exploiting.
Skyrocketing up the musical charts, the threesome are hauling in buckets of money, but Dave is planning for the future instead of letting his "boys" enjoy the perks of their newfound status. "Uncle" Ian on the other hand is willing to indulge the tracksuit wearing pop stars in the excesses of fame, and soon convinces them to move in with him.
Yet before long, even huge jolts of java can't keep the chipmunks performing at hyper speed that Ian demands. And like many celebrities today, these entertainers need some intervention to get them off the fast track for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
For the most part, the CGI animation works well in the movie, avoiding the distracting reality that the live-action actors have spent most of their time talking to thin air. The script, while containing some cartoon violence and the risky practice of inhaling helium, manages to stay away from a proliferation of potty jokes and sexual innuendos that bogs down many children's films.
Harmonizing their way from one catchy tune to the next, Alvin, Theodore and Simon are ready to entertain a whole new generation of music lovers who will no doubt be looking for a download.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Why is Dave reluctant to make a commitment? How does he feel about referring to the chipmunks as family rather than friends?
How does the lifestyle of the rich and spoiled affect Alvin and his buddies? Are there drawbacks to being famous?
As for breathing helium, here is a link that explains the dangers.
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Other cartoon characters have had their day on the big screen. Underdog, based on the 1960’s cartoon, is a crime-fighting canine out to save the city. In The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, the animated moose and flying squirrel from Frostbite Falls get their own theatrical release. And in Hoodwinked, an updated version of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, a squirrel has a similar reaction to the chipmunks after downing his own cup of coffee.