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Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel(2009)
Audiences should brace themselves for screams of "Alvin!" and cuter-than-cute chipmunks in this sequel to the 2007 hit.
For more about Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel and the Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel Blu-ray release, see the Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel Blu-ray Review
Starring: Zachary Levi, David Cross, Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Anna Faris, Jason Lee
Director: Betty Thomas
» See full cast & crew
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel Blu-ray Review
Beware the pitch shift.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, April 1, 2010
I've come to a recent understanding: The Chipmunks have always been annoying to anyone over the arbitrary age of, say, sixteen. I can remember, as a child of the 1980s, being absolutely in love with a particular Alvin and The Chipmunks 7" record that would get frequent rotation on my little toy player. My parents probably winced whenever I flipped the record and placed the needle back in the groove, starting those high-pitched voices a'quivering all over again, but I bet they did the same thing to their parents fifty years ago, when novelty songwriter Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. first introduced his squeaky voiced creations to the American public. Now, thanks to 2007's Alvin and the Chipmunks, along with this 2009 Squeakquel—I know, a real killer of a pun—a whole new generation of youngsters is able to drive their parents up a wall. It's almost a rite of passage. So, how does this most recent reboot compare to other iterations of the 'munks? Not so well, unfortunately. I was weaned on the 1983-1990 TV series, so I'm a bit biased, but you needn't take my word for it—critical reaction to both new films has been overwhelmingly negative. But do kids love The Squeakquel? Overwhelmingly yes, to the tune of a $442,000,000 box office intake. Incidentally, this makes The Squeakquel the highest grossing film ever by a female director—Dr. Doolittle helmer Betty Thomas. Unsurprisingly, this Blu-ray release is all set to be a massive seller. Parents, ready your noise-canceling headphones.
The story picks up with Alvin, Simon, and Theodore—voiced unrecognizably by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney—performing a cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" at a massive benefit concert in France. When Alvin gets too cocky with his onstage acrobatics, his hubris gets the best of, well, everyone, landing the 'munks handler, Dave (Jason Lee) in traction at a Parisian hospital, where he essentially sits out the film. (He gets more than ample opportunity, however, to scream his characteristic "A-l-v-i-n-n-n-n!" catchphrase, mostly by phone.) The three hoodie-wearing rodents are sent stateside and looked after by Dave's cousin Toby (Chuck's Zachary Levi), a bumbling, videogame-addicted slacker with no financial or romantic prospects. For whatever reason, the chipmunks are enrolled in high school, where a popular crew of knucklehead jocks woos Alvin away from his siblings, jeopardizing Principal Rubin's (Wendie Malick) plans to enroll the pipsqueaks in a singing contest that could net the school's music department a cool 25 grand. Meanwhile, the chipmunks' nemesis, down-but-not- out music exec Ian Hawke (David Cross) discovers The Chipettes—The Chipmunks' female counterparts—and enrolls them in school, with the hope that they might win the contest and send him back to the top of the Jett Records food chain.
As expected, much lightweight drama ensues as the three brothers learn Important Life Lessons about brotherhood and popularity and, of course, girls. The film's most inspired moment comes when The Chipmunks first encounter The Chipettes in the school hallway. As the two sets of siblings lay eyes on one another—with Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is" blaring in the background— every mammalian face goes slack and dopey, tiny wet noses quivering with the pangs of puppy love. Sadly, this brilliant scene lasts all of ten seconds, and then it's back to fart gags, swirlies, and enough slapstick to keep even the most ADHD kids interested for the whole 88-minute runtime. Adults may take brief refuge in a handful of off-the-wall references—Alvin channels DeNiro in Taxi Driver, and later gives Hannibal Lecter's favre beans and Chianti speech—but anyone over twenty will quickly tire under the barrage of chipmunk-itized pop tunes. I have to say, it's mildly unnerving to watch pubescent female chipmunks sing "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" while suggestively gyrating their curvaceous hips. In general, the interplay between the humans and the chipmunks in the film seems strange. Why are the 'munks in high school in the first place? And what odd, cross-species urge drives cheerleaders to flirt with Alvin? Perhaps I should drop this line of reasoning. Tiny tots will accept it all—they don't have any disbelief to suspend—but for us grownups, no amount of imagination can save The Squeakquel from seeming slightly ridiculous.
Ridiculous is also a good word to describe some of the adult actors' performances. After watching David Cross plumb new career comedic lows, I found myself hoping that the longtime-in-the- works movie script for Arrested Development would get pushed into production this year, just so Cross might once again have some good material to work with. The same sentiment goes for Jason Lee and Zachary Levi, who are no doubt enjoying their fat paychecks for The Squeakquel, but, well, you know, are forever stigmatized by having starred in a film called The Squeakquel. If you had told me ten years ago that the stinkpalm-wielding wiseass from Mallrats would end up as Dave Seville, tending for a trio of cuddly chipmunks, I probably would've shot you the most dismissive look imaginable. None of the actors are actually bad here, just sort of glumly pitiable, like when Bill Murray signed on for Garfield: The Movie. Still, for kids, these guys aren't actors, they're the butts of endless potty jokes and physical gags, all of which seem quite adept at making the under-10 set crack up. And in that respect, The Squeakquel is a success. I just wonder how this current crop of young fans will feel about The Chipmunks when their kids are playing pitch- shifted pop songs on repeat.
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel Blu-ray, Video Quality
Think of it this way, parents: Squeakquel may give you dreams about hunting chipmunks for sport, but at least it looks terrific on Blu-ray, thanks to a solid 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer courtesy of 20th Century Fox. The movie is crisp, ultra colorful and, despite the CGI stars, undeniably filmic, with a thin layer of pleasingly untouched grain covering each frame. Clarity is strong, showing an appreciable amount of skin and clothing texture on the live-action actors, and finely rendering the 'munks not-quite-cartoonish, not-quite-photorealistic fur and costumes. (The Chipettes' sequined dresses look especially vivid.) Not to be outdone, the film's color scheme is incredibly vibrant, with bright, supersaturated primaries—see Alvin and Simon's hoodies—and a slightly warm cast, with highlights that are closer to cream than white. Contrast is nice and tight and black levels are dark and stable, with no crush and plenty of revealing shadow delineation. The encode is excellent as well, as I didn't spy any excess noise or compression-related issues. The only thing that eagle-eyed viewers might spot is that the grain that's layered over the CGI to blend it in with the rest of the picture doesn't always match perfectly. There are also a few moments when the chipmunks stand out somewhat awkwardly from their surroundings, but I can't really dock the transfer for that. Overall, a real winner here from Fox.
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Ah, the dreaded pitch shift, raising voices several octaves and making mindless pop songs sound even more grating and infectious than they already are. I've been absentmindedly humming the theme song that plays over the disc's menu all day, and basically slapping myself on the forehead every time I catch myself doing it. If you can get past the fact that super-high chipmunk voices are always going to be somewhat obnoxious, The Squeakquel's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is pretty good, though the rear channels don't get nearly as much play as they could've had. Seeing how the last act of the movie is loaded with action film theatrics—helicopter rides and minibike chases—I expected the audio to really kick in and engage, but aside from a few standout cross-channel movements, this track remains entrenched up front and center. Of course, some of the music gets panned into the rears, along with some extremely quiet ambience during the more dialogue driven scenes, but there's not much in the way of outright immersion. Still, the track has dynamic heft a-plenty, and the various chipmunk-reworked pop tunes sound great in a perverse, I don't want to admit it but I kind of have to way. Just be sure to barricade yourself in your hopefully soundproofed den when the kids decide to blast this one at high volumes.
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
'Munk Music Machine (1080p, 10:57)
The so-called "'Munk Music Machine" allows you to play all of the musical sequences from the film. Includes You Really Got Me, Stayin' Alive, Bring It On, Put Your Records On, It's Okay, Hot 'N Cold, Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), All Night Dance Crew, No One, We Are Family, and Shake Your Groove Thing. For the truly masochistic, there's also a "Play Music Machine Non-Stop (Continuous Repeat)" option.
Music in a Nutshell: Song Trivia
Turn on this feature to activate a pop-up trivia track that runs throughout the film, giving information about the various songs featured on the soundtrack.
A-l-v-i-n-n-n-n!!! Album Maker (1080p)
This is a rather unintuitive application that allows kids to create their own virtual albums filled with screenshots from select scenes from the film. There are really no instructions given, so you're left to figure out for yourself what it is exactly that you're supposed to do. The best I can gather, you first select scenes, then take screenshots within those scenes, place them in a layout and add stickers and captions. There are three separate "difficulty levels," one for 1-5 year olds, 6-11 year olds, and 12 to adult. I started on 6-11 and still had trouble figuring out what I was doing.
Munking History: 50 Years of Chipmunk Mischief, Mayhem and Music (1080p, 9:21)
The most enjoyable supplement—especially for those who grew up with the three high-pitched rodents—is this brief retrospective of The Chipmunks' multi-generational history in music and cartoons.
Meet the Chipettes (1080p, 8:37)
Producers Ross Bagdasarian and Janice Karman, who were responsible for the Chipmunks reboot in the early '80s, discuss the creation and personalities of the three Chipettes. Anna Farris, Christina Applegate, and Amy Poehler also pipe up to say a few words about their characters.
Rockin' Rising Stars (1080p, 6:21)
A profile of Honor Society and Charice Pempengco, two of the musical acts briefly featured in the film.
Music Mania (1080p, 9:04)
Here, we go on set for the filming of the climactic battle of the bands-style contest and see how the live-action actors deal with having to perform without the CGI chipmunks in frame.
The Chipmunks: Behind the Squeaking
"Investigative reporter" Natalie Saraf stages a VH1-style mock expose of the behind-the-scenes lives of the three rock star chipmunks, complete with interviews with all the actors and producers, who manage to keep straight faces throughout.
A-Nut-omy of a Scene (1080p, 2:39)
A visual explanation of how the CGI creations are incorporated with the live action cinematography, from reference passes to animatics and final rendering.
Meet the Stuffies! (1080p, 3:09)
The "stuffies" are the stand-in puppets used by the filmmakers to block the scenes and visual where the CGI chipmunks will be inserted. Here, the actors and producers talk about them as if the stuffies were real people.
Shake Your Groove Thing with Rosero (1080p, 8:59)
Choreographer Rosero gives us a class on how to perform some of the dance moves we see the chipmunks doing in the film.
Music Videos (1080p)
Five music videos comprised of footage from the film: Single Ladies (3:07), We Are Family (3:12), Shake Your Groove Thing (4:35), You Really Got Me feat. Honor Society (2:02), The Song feat. Queensberry (3:09). All but the last two are available with sing-a-long, karaoke-style lyrics at the bottom of the screen.
Sneak Peeks (1080p, 3:25)
Includes trailers for Tooth Fairy and Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back.
Includes a "What's New" page, Live Lookup IMDB filmographies, and two exclusive deleted scenes, one entitled "Poopy Pudding." Yum.
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Yes, kids will love The Squeakquel, if only because they're capable of enthusiastic love for just about anything, especially if it's as cute as Theodore, clever as Simon, or rambunctious as Alvin. Let 'em love it, I say, even if that means grinning and bearing it while over-caffeinated pop songs blare from the living room. You'll get your revenge as a grandparent, buying obnoxious new releases for their children. The film isn't the greatest, but this is an otherwise impressive package from Fox, with a tight high definition image, a solid audio track, and a nearly inexhaustible array of bonus features.
Blu-ray bundles with Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel (1 bundle)
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