Beware: Spoilers may follow.
While the novelty of the Alvin and the Chipmunks’ sped up voices died several years ago, it didn’t stop four live action movies of commercialization of their music, clichéd and juvenile humor, and kid-pandering fluff that somehow proved to be capable of turning a profit with each one since it proves to keep the kids quiet for a couple hours. These movies have been the primary property associated with the Chipmunks for the past several years. The Chipmunks franchise deserves better and some would argue so do the kids. And it just so happens there is a Chipmunks movie that is far better that came out way back in 1987.
The story involves the three Chipmunks and the Chipettes competing in an around the world on a hot air balloon race as they get involved in a jewel smuggling operation.
For what is supposed to be a kids’ movie much more a Chipmunks movie the story is quite jam-packed with jewel smuggling, political power, world traveling, musical numbers, and the Chipmunks and Chipettes bickering over who will be the winner. It’s a lot to register for youngsters but they can enjoy the Chipmunks and the Chipettes having duking it out with their battle of the bands. And the former really gives it an adult feel and nothing feels dumbed down. The villains have some sophisticated voice acting behind them and there are legitimate stakes.
The story is rather basic being an around-the-world tour but it does have quite the depictions of places like Mexico, Bermuda, Rio, Greece, and Cairo. Some of them are accurate if not harmless but some are really outdated and stereotypical and it can really strike a nerve at times. With all that being said there’s a sense of adventure that lie within combined with a sense of amusement of how the predicaments are solved with song and dance numbers. And the songs themselves are very catchy, energetic, and give a feeling of grandness and magic.
The animation during the music scenes is spectacular but what really is interesting to look at is the rest of it. It is very odd but not in a problematic way. The human characters feel like something more out of a Ralph Bakshi movie whereas the design on the Chipmunks and Chipettes feel far more out of a cheap straight to video movie. It’s weird but it’s also unique and it still is fluid. When it comes to the locales though the backgrounds have significant detail and imagination to them primarily because a lot of the animators for this movie did the work on Disney’s The Black Cauldron which while not a very good movie in itself did have some impressive animation and you can definitely see the talent in here.
Both the Chipmunks and the Chippettes are pretty one-dimensional and don’t have much of an arc but have a charm of the times embedded within them when it comes to kids’ movies: They’re cute, likable, and their antics are fairly balanced. And when it comes to the adult human characters we don’t get to know much of them but they do well enough in driving the plot forward.
A Chipmunk Adventure isn’t the most thought provoking nor is it the most beautifully animated movie out there but for a movie that’s just about talking and singing Chipmunks it has far more effort than what you’d expect. We’ve had four live action Chipmunks movies that really took the charm from these rodents and we really ought to turn this around. This is a movie that has some real love put into it and it feels like the movie genuinely wanted to be everlasting in its quality. Even if some of it is a product of the times, it’s an interesting time capsule and one that ought to be more associated with the Chipmunks than them being sell-outs of sped up pop songs.