Two thousand and nine can pretty firmly be known as the year in which the kiddie flick took on a whole new shape, with some of our choicest auteurs (Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze) taking a crack at adapting beloved children’s books, and under the thumb of major studios to boot. What resulted were self-reflexive and undeniably personal efforts, met with delight and even some derision, but it warmed the heart to think that Hollywood might take such films in a new direction, and not leave the quality stuff exclusively to the massively Oscared Pixar.
Cut to a frozen-over, shattered cube where your heart once resided, as Hollywood chose this brain-dead “squeakquel” as its final 2009 offering for the tykes. The inexplicably successful 2007 precursor, itself not exactly a model of craft or wit, seems like vintage Sturges compared to this dispiriting hatchet job. Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are back, this time whining their way through the American Idol songbook as the singing trio ends up attending high school and putting their pop stardom on hold, while Dave (Jason Lee, whose on-screen appearance is maybe four minutes tops—lucky him) is laid up with broken bones, and Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten) meets with an accident. They’re left in the care of super-geek cousin Toby (Zachary Levi), a video-game doofus as clean as Ratzo Rizzo, and find their pop world rocked when the Chipettes, their all-girl doppelgangers, land via FedEx and become the new project of slimy record exec Ian Hawke, played by returning vet David Cross, who one truly hopes needed to buy a black market kidney for someone to justify this paycheck part, easily the most embarrassing in recent memory. The Chipmunks and Chipettes initially duke it out in a singing contest to save their school’s music program, then join forces to do in evil Ian, then do their best to do in the unsuspecting patrons who find themselves sitting through this dreck.
The story is so paper-thin one surmises it was scrawled on soggy toilet paper somewhere, with movie references from Taxi Driver to The Silence of the Lambs thrown in for the hell of it. (And seriously, what first-grader is ever going to get these shout-outs anyway?) And then there’s the constant barrage of pop music, from “Stayin’ Alive” refashioned as an ode to cheese balls (no joke) to the ubiquitous Beyoncé hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” which, after having been a centerpiece of a Glee episode this season, must have some mandate for oversaturation in Fox’s administration.
And one can’t possibly forget the farting, with Theodore suffering a Dutch Oven at the ass cheeks of Toby. About midway through, Ian finally connects to the audience by mentioning still having his dignity, bellowing, “They can’t take that away from me!” Sure pal, keep telling yourself that.