Case Number 14665: Small Claims Court


Paramount // 1984 // 180 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // October 6th, 2008

The Charge

Are we not men?

The Case

I've noticed that there's been a run of Chipmunk product at DVD Verdict lately. We've all noticed it, actually. Like the characters in The Ring, each week, we judges approach our video packages warily, not knowing if we're going to be full-on assaulted by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.'s adorably nattering rodents.

Well, tonight my number came up -- in spades. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set contains not one, not two, but three (you read that right) discs chock full of chipmunk high jinks, all themed around that end-of-the-year holiday corridor from Halloween to Christmas. Two of these -- A Chipmunk Christmas and Trick or Treason -- have already been released on DVD and are just bundled along with the new entry, Alvin's Thanksgiving Celebration.

While the set itself wasn't particularly surprising -- repackaged episodes from the Chipmunks' more-than-20-year-old TV series -- what was startling was the appearance of the Chipmunks. They no longer looked like...well, chipmunks. Now, they look like children -- human children, with overbites. It's jarring.

Old Chipmunks:

alvin and the chipmunks original

New Chipmunks:

alvin and the chipmunks 1980s

Had evolution just taken two big umbrella steps with these guys? Had their chipmunk genes somehow mutated? Or was there something more sinister at play?

Sucking a little helium, I went undercover in the Chipmunk network, searching for a source, for some answers. You dole out enough nuts and berries, and somebody'll squeal, and soon enough, I had my squealer, a knowledgeable source who here will go by the code name "Behind the Green Door."

L.A., early 1960s, Dave Seville and his Chipmunks riding high on success, hit record after hit record, TV appearances, supermarket openings, fan clubs. Simon's rumored "friendship" with actress and dancer Blaze Starr causes a small scandal, but spin doctors get everyone out unscathed.

Then, trouble. Alvin starts forgetting lyrics. Theodore falls asleep during recording sessions. Seville realizes: Chipmunks only have a life expectancy of five years, so the "boys" are now anthropomorphized geezers.

Seville doesn't know what to do, so they take off into the jungle. The record company covers them, releasing old tracks. Disturbing rumors start to crop up, whispered at first, that Dave has become unhinged and is conducting profane experiments in his jungle hideaway. Then, an audio tape surfaces, later verified to contain Dave Seville's voice:

Dave (on tape): "But we must kill them. We must incinerate them. Talking rabbit after talking rabbit, flying squirrel after flying squirrel, round-headed kid's beagle after round-headed kid's beagle. I hate them! Hate them, I say!"

Concerned, a contingent of Hollywood friends, led by Chip and Dale, attempt to infiltrate Seville's jungle fiefdom. After two weeks, the group returns, with Dale babbling wildly about something called "The House of Pain," and a disturbing exchange captured on Chip's tape recorder:

Seville: "What is the law?"
Alvin, Theodore, Simon: "Not to eat meat, that is the law. Are we not Chipmunks?"
Seville: "What is the law?"
Alvin, Theodore, Simon: "Not to go on all fours, that is the law. Are we not Chipmunks?"
Seville: "What is the law?"
Alvin, Theodore, Simon: "To only sing high pitched and squeaky, that is the law. Are we not Chipmunks?"

After that, Hollywood -- and the rest of the world -- stayed clear of Seville's jungle kingdom. There was briefly talk of filmmaker Joseph Wiseman making a documentary feature about the Chipmunk disappearance and calling it "The Island of Lost Sevilles," but that never amounted to anything.

Years later, just as the furor died down, Dave Seville, along with Alvin, Theodore, and Simon, suddenly reappeared, turning up at a Denny's opening on Sunset Boulevard. No statement was ever given about the intervening years, but no one could help but notice how the Chipmunks looked...rejuvenated and boyish.

Shortly thereafter, they appeared in A Chipmunk Christmas, which is included on this set, still looking somewhat chipmunkish. By the time the Alvin and the Chipmunks series began regular Saturday morning rotation, the transformation from woodland creature to buck-toothed tow-head was complete.

My source, Behind the Green Door, tells me that there are many clues as to what actually went down in the jungle. One of these entails playing Chipmunk music backwards. Since DVDs don't do that, I re-recorded all the songs to an audio reel and ran that in reverse. So far, I haven't been able to discern anything -- just a lot of gibberish and some nonsense about a "Cranberry Bog."

Is the true story hidden somewhere on Alvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set? Did Dave Seville learn more from the witch doctor than he suggested in his song?

I don't know that we'll ever know the truth.

Horror has a face, and that face has chubby cheeks.

Guilty of attempting crimes against nature.

Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 180 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* Official Site