A third chipmunks movie was always going to happen based on the staggering success of the original 2007 film and its even more profitable “Squeakuel”. However, the basic premise of three all-singing, all-dancing pop star rodents who live with their adopted human father, Dave (Jason Lee) seems to have finally run aground. Originating out of a 1958 novelty record by Ross Bagdasarian Sr., The Chipmunks have been a cultural phenomenon that has spanned music, television and Cinema more than half a century. What this latest contribution lacks, however, is anything warm, fuzzy or even tangible for its audience to connect with.
Alvin, Simon and Theodore have teamed up with the female “Chipettes” and Dave takes all six chipmunks on a holiday cruise. No sooner are they on board than Alvin begins causing trouble and the rodents go overboard and wash up on a deserted island. Dave, meanwhile, encounters disgruntled former music exec Ian (David Cross), only for both of them to also end up in the ocean and heading for the same patch of dry land.
Chipwrecked contains precious little story beyond its set-up and the title is the film’s best gag by a considerable margin. Alvin is forced to learn about responsibility, Simon is bitten by a spider that transforms him into a daredevil Frenchman and they encounter a marooned UPS courier (Jenny Slate) in an extended Castaway joke that some adults might recognise, but will go clear over the heads of most young viewers. In lieu of story and likable characters the film offers pratfalls, in-fighting and countless musical renditions of Lady Gaga, Pink and Rihanna songs, performed in the Chipmunks’ signature ultra high-pitched style.
While I was hoping for a dark Lord of the Flies-style descent into savagery, the chipmunks go the other way and learn how to be resourceful and independent, lighting fires, building shelters and surviving on a diet of mangoes, while separated from the humans. If the chipmunks themselves are somewhat one-note, the human characters fare even worse. Dave struggles with his parental responsibilities but has little control over his animated wards. Evil Ian waddles around in a full body pelican costume making snarky comments and only looking out for himself, while oddball castaway Zoe can’t decide if she’s crazy, lonely, dastardly or a love interest – and ends up being not much of anything.
At 80 minutes the film feels overlong and yet stretched woefully thin. For adults and children alike, Chipwrecked is barren and humourless, and makes for a soul-crushing waste of time during the holiday season. Kids would be better entertained staring at a lunchbox than trying to watch this film. The film is a lazy cash grab, piggybacking off the success of its predecessors without delivering anything to be entertained by. If there is a message, it is that children need the space and freedom to make good decisions on their own terms, but if that includes wanting to watch Chipwrecked, then I’d rather be branded a bad parent.