Alvin and the Chipmunks is a sobering cautionary tale about the perils of fame, and the exhausting and often humiliating antics of stage parents. No, I'm kidding; it's a standard family movie. The trailer looked downright awful, but when I saw a free screening this morning, it wasn't so bad. Once again, it's amazing how one's low expectations can improve a movie.
Much of the credit goes to stars Jason Lee and David Cross, both edgy choices for this kind of family fare. Dave Seville (Lee) is a struggling songwriter who happens upon the titular characters and gains the special attention of a record exec (Cross). Over the film they battle over control of the instantly popular chipmunk recording act, who are depicted as the equivalent of children.
While the script is nothing to write home about, it does a few things well. No time is wasted on the talking chipmunk thing; it's a novelty, but it's never becomes a scientific issue. Also, any shenanigans meant to turn Dave's life upside down are kept to a merciful minimum. And the evilness within the greedy Cross character is of the boo-hiss variety, so that audiences can just delight in that actor's general weirdness.
With this movie and last summer's Underdog, Lee has become one of those actors who settle down in their old age and make movies their kids could watch. Thing is, he's actually pretty good at it. So you don't have to blame little Pilot Inspektor Riesgraf-Lee for his father's change in output.