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Culture Films: Alvin and the Chipmunks U; (1Hr 31mins), Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, and the Voice of Justin Long. Director: Tim Hill.**

Article excerpt

In the 1995 Oscar-winning Babe and its disappointing sequel, director George Miller employed a trio of singing mice as the farmyard's Greek chorus.

The diminutive critters introduced each chapter of the story and, most memorably, burst into helium-voiced renditions of songs such as Blue Moon.

Now, imagine this cute gimmick expanded into a 91-minute feature and you have Alvin And The Chipmunks, an infernal racket based on mischievous characters created by Ross Bagdasarian Snr in the late 1950s.

Director Tim Hill conjures an eyecatching conflation of live action and computer-animated mayhem as his three squeaky heroes are transplanted from the countryside to the metropolis, where their distinctive warbling marks them out as the chart-topping superstars of the future. Unfortunately, when Alvin, Simon and Theodore perform Witch Doctor, a hi-energy remix of Bagdasarian's 1958 ditty, it's impossible to understand any of the words, not least the gibberish chorus. How anyone is supposed to sing along without hyperventilating is hard to fathom. The festive yarn begins with Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon and Theodore hoarding nuts for the winter, only for their high-rise home to be chopped down as a Christmas tree.

The chipmunks secretly hitch a ride to the modest Los Angeles home of downon-his-luck songwriter Dave Seville (Jason Lee), and proceed to wreck the apartment. When Dave finally comes face-to-twitching nose with the three intruders, he turfs them out, only to have second thoughts when he hears them sing. …