Alvin and the Chipmunks full movie review - Alvin and the Chipmunks - Blu-ray Review from Hollywoodinhidef.com
Reviewed by James Plath, Managing Editor of DVDTOWN.COM and Contributor to HollywoodinHiDef.com
One name says it all, but who knew of Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. back in 1958, when "The Chipmunk Song" sold 4.5 million records in just seven weeks? Bagdasarian was better known as David Seville, and a high-tech tape recorder allowed him to do the voices for all three chipmunks as well as his own, and the musician's son revived the pop-novelty phenomenon in the Eighties, when it spawned an animated TV show. Now, this live-action and CGI film brings "Alvin and the Chipmunks" to a third generation. Forget what you've heard from cranky critics.
This is a great family film, entertaining for the youngsters and fun for parents, and not just because it's an "origin" story that incorporates snippets of the old familiar songs. Sure, it's a giggle to see how Alvin, Theodore, and Simon end up bagged in a Christmas tree that's erected in the lobby of Jett Records--where Seville just happens to have been tossed out by his old college roommate and Jett honcho, Ian (David Cross). But it's also a hoot seeing Jason Lee duplicate the wide-eyed enthusiasm from his TV character on "My Name is Earl," only with chipmunks to interact with instead of a slow-on-the-uptake brother.
The plot is pretty standard. The chipmunks (voiced by Justin Long, Jesse McCartney and Matthew Gray Gubler) strike a deal with Dave to sing his songs in exchange for room and board, but then go with "Uncle" Ian after they're convinced Dave doesn't want the little troublemakers in his life anymore, only to have Ian turn into a regular Stromboli, working them until they're ragged (and until Dave can come to the rescue). Dave apparently has problems committing to a family, and so a side plot involves his ex- (Cameron Richardson). Though the Chipmunks go from Chip 'n' Dale clueless to hip-hop savvy faster that Alvin can get into trouble, how much logic do you want from a film that has talking and singing rodents? The CGI animation is excellent, the furballs are fun to watch, and there's only one poop joke and one fart gag, which is tame by today's standards. Kids will love it for the mischief, the singing, and the humor. And ultimately, the message (family first) is a good one.
Think primary colors, and lots of them, along with strong black levels that provide a nice 3-dimensionality, and not just for the CGI chipmunks. "Alvin and the Chipmunks" was transferred to a 25-gig disc using the AVC/MPEG-4 codec and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it looks great in 1080p High Definition. The picture has a nice polished plasticine look to it, with strong edge detail.
I'm a PCM fan, and so to my ears, while this DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio does a fine job of delivering a clear soundtrack with a nice balance and spread across the front speakers, it doesn't seem to have that extra "pop" that PCM often delivers. The rear speakers get involved during the Chipmunks' shenanigans and music, and particularly with the hip-hop numbers they really come to life. You lose a little fullness with the Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1, but both are still very serviceable soundtracks.
Subtitles are in English (CC), Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean.
For a box-office hit, "Alvin and the Chipmunks" comes with only TWO features, not counting a handful of other trailers. That's not even one per "munk." One of them gives us the history of David Seville and the Chipmunks, narrated by Bagdasarian, Jr.. It covers all the bases, and while it falls short of being what fans have come to think of as a full-blown documentary, with multiple talking heads, copious clips, and behind-the-scenes footage, it's still a nice feature. There are vintage stills, artwork from advertising and promotions, and a nice overall history. A second short feature on the music explains how Ali Dee and Co. didn't just want to make music for helium-voiced chipmunks; they wanted to make cool hip-hop and R&B tracks that would be worthy of a Top-10 song. It's interesting, but I would have liked to have had another feature on the CGI animation or a commentary track with Lee and the director. Why not?
If you have a Blu-ray player and you have children, you already know that good HD titles for the whole family are tough to come by. Though there have been plenty of failures when it comes to live-action/CGI versions of a beloved cartoon classic, "Alvin and the Chipmunks" really does a nice job of appealing to nostalgic fans of the old music and cartoons, while also jazzing it up for a whole new crowd of admirers.