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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tim Hill
Cast:
Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, Justin Long, Jane Lynch, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney
Writing Credits:
Jon Vitti (and story), Will McRobb, Chris Viscardi, Ross Bagdasarian (characters, "Alvin and the Chipmunks")

Tagline:
Here comes trouble.

Synopsis:
Struggling songwriter Dave Seville (Jason Lee) opens his home to a talented trio of chipmunks named Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, and they become overnight music sensations. But when a greedy record producer (David Cross) tries to exploit the "boys", Dave must use a little human ingenuity and a lot of 'munk mischief to get his furry family back before it's too late!

Box Office:
Budget
$70 million.
Opening Weekend
$44.307 million on 3475 screens.
Domestic Gross
$215.760 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 11/4/2008

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Two Deleted Scenes
• Music Videos
• “Behind the Nuts” Featurette
• “The Dudes Behind the Munks” Featurette
• “Get Munk’d” Dance Tutorial
• “Chipmunks Live on Tour” Featurette
• “Chipmunk Funk Mixer” Interactive Feature
DVD Two:
• Digital Copy


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Alvin And The Chipmunks: Special Edition (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 19, 2008)

If you look at the 10 highest grossing flicks of 2007, Alvin and the Chipmunks provides unquestionably the biggest surprise. An unassuming little animation/live-action hybrid update of the old David Seville characters came with little hype among many bigger hitters in the holiday season. Nonetheless, the flick surpassed virtually all expectations and made a stunning $215 million at the box office.

The vagaries of the “family film” market continue to confound me. Some believe audiences are so starved for relatively inoffensive material that almost anything in that category will score big bucks. However, this ignores the reams of quality “family friendly” efforts that tank. What made Alvin different? I have no idea, but something about it really appealed to mass audiences.

The flick introduces us to a trio of chipmunks: Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (voiced by Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (voiced by Jesse McCartney). When their home gets cut down to become a Christmas tree, they stay on it and end up delivered to the offices of Jett Records.

Dave Seville (Jason Lee) works as a songwriter, but he seems to have lost his muse. Record exec Ian Hawke (David Cross) –an old college classmate – tells Dave to give us the cause because songs boast no commercial appeal.

Enter the talents of our homeless chipmunks. They stow away in a muffin basket Dave steals from the record company and freak him out when he discovers them. After a rough start, Dave discovers that the rodents can sing like nobody’s business and he hatches a plan to revive his career. Inspired by their dreams of a happy Christmas, Dave quickly churns out a number called “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Is Here)”. After some snarls, the tune rockets to the top of the charts and the chipmunks become a pop sensation. The movie follows their adventures and the inevitable snags along the way.

We constantly hear about how audiences crave family films. That seems to explain the success of Alvin, though it doesn’t tell us why some flicks of this sort prosper and others tank. What about Alvin turned it into a megahit while other family-oriented pictures bombed?

I’ll be darned if I know. I guess there existed an untapped market for computer animated rodents. Maybe crossover appeal worked here, as adults who grew up with the Chipmunks might want to share the nostalgia with their kids.

Those are some theories, but I really can’t figure out the answer, as I find little here to distinguish Alvin from most other family flicks out there. That makes it neither bad nor good – it’s just “there”, without a whole lot of spark to lead me to figure out why it turned into a smash.

On its own merits, Alvin presents a mildly entertaining spectacle. It throws a lot at us and hopes some of it will stick. Clearly kids will get more of a kick out of the gags than adults will, although the flick tries to fling a few nuggets in the vague direction of the parents in the audience. A few mildly sly references come along for the ride, but the vast majority of the comedy remains aimed firmly at the youngsters.

At least the actors occasionally help make things more palatable for the adults. Cross provides a reasonably weaselly and amusing turn as the sleazy record company exec, and we also find a short but amusing turn from Jane Lynch as Dave’s boss; I wish we got more of her. I like Lee as a presence, though I wouldn’t call him much of an actor; he shows his usual broad work here, and a few small laughs emerge.

Overall, however, Alvin comes across as a bland and forgettable flick. I find it hard to muster much to say about the movie just because it’s so relentlessly ordinary. It creates a minor distraction for 90 minutes and then completely leaves your mind.

Footnote: stick through the end credits for a look at Chipmunks album covers throughout the years.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Alvin and the Chipmunks appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No significant issues materialized here.

Only a few minor sharpness concerns appeared. A few shots demonstrated light softness, usually in wider images. The vast majority of the flick looked well-defined and accurate, though. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained minimal. I saw no source flaws either during this clean presentation.

Though I expected a candy-colored palette for Alvin, the flick actually went with a moderately subdued set of tones. Hues stayed on the natural side, with a mild golden tint to things. Within those parameters, the colors looked fine. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows appeared clear and well-developed. The mild softness was the main reason this transfer fell to a still strong “B+”.

Not a lot of action came with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Alvin and the Chipmunks. The soundfield stayed pretty subdued through much of the flick. The forward speakers brought out general atmosphere as well as a few minor examples of movement. Elements wound up in logical spots, but they just didn’t have a lot to do. Music showed good stereo imaging, at least, and the surrounds added moderate ambience. This wasn’t what I’d call an active mix, though.

Audio quality was fine though also unexceptional. Speech seemed concise and crisp, without edginess or other issues. Music seemed clear enough, though the score and songs didn’t come with a lot of oomph; low-end was somewhat lackluster. Effects sounded fairly accurate and distinctive, though they also didn’t pack a lot of punch. All of this was good enough for a “B-“, but I wouldn’t call this a memorable mix.

How did the picture and audio of this Special Edition compare to those of the original release? I thought both seemed virtually identical. Actually, the extra space found here due to the omission of the prior release’s fullscreen presentation may allow this one to look a bit more detailed. However, any increased definition remained minor, as both DVDs looked a whole lot alike to me.

The main difference between the original DVD and this SE comes from their extras. The SE drops the handful of supplements on the prior release but adds some exclusives. On DVD One, we start with two music videos. We get clips for “Witch Doctor” (3:45) and “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” (2:17). These essentially just pair the songs with movie snippets, so they’re eminently disposable.

Two Deleted Scenes come next. We find “The Focus Group” (3:04) and “Dave’s Music Award” (1:25). In the first one, Dave meets with little kids to help develop an ad campaign. “Group” earns some points because it includes more of the ever-amusing Jane Lynch; otherwise it lacks much punch.

Cut from the scene that takes Dave to his first record label meeting, “Award” depicts Dave’s fantasy as he imagines all the prizes he’ll win. It’s pretty forgettable.

A few featurettes follow. Called a “munkumentary”, Behind the Nuts goes for eight minutes, 48 seconds as it pretends that Alvin, Theodore and Simon are real actors; it provides comments from cast and crew and also shows their antics on the set. It’s mildly amusing at best.

After this comes a six-minute and 14-second piece entitled The Dudes Behind the Munks. It features producers Janice Karman and Ross Bagdasarian as well as actors Jesse McCartney, Justin Long, and Matthew Gray Gubler. This focuses on the performers who do the Chipmunk voices, but not in an informative way. Instead, it sticks with the jokey tone of “Behind the Nuts”, so we learn very little about the flick’s creation. And what’s with the references to Karman and Bagdasarian as the “original” people behind the Chipmunks? Were he still alive, Bagdasarian’s dad – the one who actually created the Chipmunks – might argue with that.

Get Munk’d runs 21 minutes, 41 seconds. It offers a tutorial that teaches us how to do some of the dances from the movie. Maybe someone in the audience will enjoy this, but it does nothing for me.

During the 11-minute and 59-second Chipmunks Live On Tour, we follow some promotional efforts for the film. We go to the parking lot of a San Diego mall to see a stage production that involves two perky humans and three poor souls stuck in chipmunk costumes. They play a bunch of songs and banter in front of a seemingly indifferent crowd. We also hear a few comments from fans who say what they like about the Chipmunks. What purpose does this extra serve? I’m not sure; it’s vaguely interesting in a car wreck way, but that’s the best I can say for it.

Next we find Chipmunk Funk Mixer. After a one-minute and nine-second introduction, we get the chance to create a remix of a Chipmunks song. This comes with limited options but it offers some minor mix and match fun.

DVD One opens with some ads. We get promos for Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, and Space Chimps. We also find trailers for Meet Dave, Elephant Tales, Angel Wars: The Messengers, Garfield’s Pet Force and Dr. Dolittle: A Tinsel Town Tail. No trailer for Alvin appears here.

Finally, DVD Two includes a Digital Copy of Alvin. It seems like every DVD provides this option these days; it allows you to easily transfer the flick to a portable device. I have no use for it, but I guess someone must dig it.

What does this set lose from the original DVD? It drops a look at the movie’s music as well as a history of the Chipmunks. Neither was great, but both were enjoyable and should’ve been part of this Special Edition.

Alvin and the Chipmunks became a major left-field hit, but I can’t figure out why. The film offers mild amusement but nothing much to make it stand out from the crowd. The DVD gives us good picture, ordinary audio, and some mediocre extras. This is a decent release for a forgettable movie.

Obviously I can’t give Alvin a recommendation for those who don’t already dig it. If you’re a fan who doesn’t own the original disc, then this one is the way to go. If you do have the prior release, I can’t advise a double-dip. Both versions look and sound the same, and the Special Edition’s new supplements aren’t substantial enough to warrant the additional expense. This is a lackluster reissue.

To rate this film, visit the Widescreen Edition review of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS

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