Paramount // 1987 // 74 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 22nd, 2006
The 1987 full-length feature film detailing the globe-trotting exploits of six singing woodland creatures has finally arrived on DVD. You are free to rejoice.
Dave Seville, the ambiguously sexual adult male guardian of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, a trio of singing chipmunks, leaves for a trip to Europe. He places the chipmunks under the custody of a clueless nanny, and the three boys soon grow restless. They go to the mall and meet up with the Chipettes, Britney, Jeanette and Eleanor, the girl chipmunks. Alvin and Britney unsheathe their characteristic competitive spirit over a video game, and the humdrum catches the eyes of a pair of sinister diamond smugglers (seriously).
The smugglers, who have had trouble exporting their illegal product, cook up a scheme to trick the chipmunks into delivering their contraband (seriously). They trick the six kids into participating in a hot-air balloon race, girls against boys, where each team has to make stops and drop off dolls filled with diamonds and pick up dolls filled with cash (not making this up). The chipmunks of course don't realize the plan and go on their adventures, seeing the sights of the world and singing a lot.
Before their journey ends, they will find themselves running for their lives, eluding shark attacks, surviving high-speed car chases, and pursued by Interpol (this is all in the movie, I swear).
If there's one thing The Chipmunk Adventure is not, is derivative. This flick represented a true WTF experience for me. The filmmakers crammed as much weirdness into 76 minutes of animation as was possible. Diamond thieves? Interpol? Prepubescent chipmunk girls in belly-dancing outfits? Anthropomorphic-chipmunk-eating natives? Chain smoking villains? Sexual tension? It's all here baby.
Start with the plot. I can make the leap of Dave and his adopted singing chipmunks. And I understand the need to bring in three female chipmunks to appeal the young female demographic just yearning for some solid representations of girl rodents on television. But how the producers ended up with this whole espionage angle is beyond my comprehension. It's like Saturday morning with The Bourne Identity.
"What can go wrong?" That's what the main villain, Claudia, says after she formulates her chipmunk-hot-air-balloon-diamond-swap-plan. Yeah, Claudia, you're right. What can possibly go wrong with that brilliant scheme? Sure the sight of talking chipmunk kids can be a bit jarring at first, but if there's anything we know about talking chipmunk kids is that they're gullible -- and good at flying hot air balloons!
You know, I jest, because, frankly, I haven't seen a "mainstream" animated film as out there as this, but I'd be lying if I called The Chipmunk Adventure boring. For all their assumed dependencies on psychotropic medications, the filmmakers have nonetheless put together a zesty, fast-moving, entertaining little feature. As you would expect, there are a few spontaneous outbursts of song, most having to do with the boy-girl competition that has flared up between the Chipmunks and the Chipettes. While not showstoppers, the high-pitched vocalists put their backs into the songs, and I found them strangely addicting.
Bottom line: the movie is whacked, but sorta fun. Plus, the traditional hand-drawn animation isn't too shabby either.
The full frame transfer looks pretty good, as it was culled from the original elements, and the 5.1 Dolby Digital surround is a duly-appreciated bonus. While not mind-blowing, the technical treatment is solid and surprisingly adept. Previews and some original artwork from the production are it for extras.
If you like you cartoon villains diabolical and puffing Marlboros, if you want your heroes belting out musical numbers and fending off hired goons and man-eating sharks, if your thoughts on the current generation of animated filmmaking lean toward "There really aren't enough car chases with chipmunks in cartoons these days," then fella, I think I've got the movie for you.
Not guilty for reasons of insanity.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Original Artwork