Cinema: Cute Idea Goes Too Far; ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (U, 91 Mins) Family/Comedy. Jason Lee, David Cross, Cameron Richardson, Jane Lynch and the Voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney. 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 "Blue Moon", "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" and the toreador aria from Bizet's Carmen.

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 Sr in the late 50s.

Director Tim Hill conjures an eye-catching 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.

The festive yarn begins with Alvin (voiced by Long), Simon (Gubler) and Theodore (McCartney) 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 down-on-his-luck songwriter Dave Seville (Lee), and proceed to wreck the apartment. …