Where Judge Ian Visser comes from, chipmunks are only entertaining if they're being shot at.
"We're the Chipmunks! C-H-I-P-M-U-N-K!"
Alvin and the Chipmunks are, well, three chipmunks. The critters in question are actually brothers, namely Alvin (the cool one), Simon (the nerdy one), and Theodore (the fat, stupid one). Like the majority of domesticated animals, the brothers have formed a band specializing in 1980s pop music. The chipmunks live with a single gentleman, David, who acts as their guardian (and probably gets the usual 10 percent of all income and royalties derived from the act). Together, the buck-toothed brothers undertake crazy adventures and learn valuable life lessons.
The Chipmunks are not a recent phenomenon. The "group" first came to popularity with a series of 1950s novelty recordings under the name David Seville and the Chipmunks. The famously squeaky voices were performed by founder Ross Bagdasarian, who recorded his own voice onto audiotape at half the normal speed. When the tape was played back at double speed, the recordings would sound higher in pitch, but also run at normal tempo. Hence, irritation is born.
There have been several animated incarnations of the group over the years, and the Chipmunks ultimately released a line of more than 35 albums and dozens of singles. Bagdasarian's creation won a total five Grammy's for children's music, and following his death in 1972 Bagdasarian's son and wife assumed vocal duties.
Paramount presents Alvin and the Chipmunks—A Chipmunk Valentine, a collection of four love-and-romance episodes from 1984, 1988, and 1989, respectively. The episodes include:
A Chipmunk Valentine—Lacking confidence to ask Brittany to the big dance, Alvin undergoes hypnotism and assumes the role of Captain Chipmunk, wooing his paramour. Alvin is unaware of his suave alter-ego, and finds himself competing with his own creation.
Dr. Simon and Mr. Heart-throb—Alvin is up for Toddler Beat's "Heart-throb of the Year" award. Simon accidentally ingests a formula which turns him into a pint-sized Don Juan, challenging Alvin's reign as champion love machine.
Dear Diary—The girls (Brittany, Eleanor, and Jeanette) all compete for the same date to the big dance, and read each other's diaries to discover their secrets. WARNING: No actual chipmunks appear in this episode.
Theodore and Juliet—Theodore tries to get laid.
I was pretty young during this incarnation of The Chipmunks, so it's tough to recall if I was a fan. I can tell you that I'm sure not one today. The best words to describe the episodes on this DVD are "irritating" and "shrill." Cheaply made and aimed squarely at five-year-olds, anyone older will find the selection of episodes presented here juvenile and/or outright silly. This collection will certainly entertain the young ones, but don't expect it to hold the interest of anyone approaching a double-digit age.
There are also some serious gender issues going on here. In each episode, the female characters are portrayed as boy-crazed and outright desperate for romance. The girls are only happy when they "get their man" (or chipmunk), and spend the rest of the time playing with ribbons and dolls, pining for a Prince Charming. I was also stunned to realize that while the boy characters are chipmunks, the girls appear to be human; is the Chipmunk franchise encouraging some inter-species mixing? Someone call the ASPCA!
Little effort seems to have been taken on the technical aspect of Alvin and the Chipmunks—A Chipmunk Valentine. The most recent episode in the collection is from 1989, so we are dealing with a source that is almost 20 years old—and looks it. The video image is quite poor, and seems to be taken from a series of VHS tapes. The screen image literally shakes in places, and the colors are bland and washed out. Audio is clear but often shrill; the Dolby Digital 2.0 track is almost too good for this offering. There are no special features included.
It may be a fun experience for the little ones, but older viewers will find Alvin and the Chipmunks—A Chipmunk Valentine to be full of grating musical numbers and squeaky dialogue. I can't really find the collection guilty, especially at a sub-$15 price tag, but it's nowhere near the best animated offering for kids. Use it to keep the little ones occupied in front of the TV, then hand it down to other younglings.
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