Runaway Rodents

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip is when I was officially done. My brother was still dedicated, but I just couldn’t drag myself to the theater. Its title is The Road Chip, this franchise is where puns go to die. Although I do feel like a tiny modicum of effort was put into it. The rating is back to PG and it no longer feels or looks short enough to be pawned off as a direct-to-video film.

The CGI on the Chipmunks and Chipettes are extra polished and the scale at least warrants a theatrical release. Along with a larger cast that includes many out of nowhere celebrity cameos. Jason Lee is back and just as bland as ever. This time Dave is dating a doctor with a punk son that Alvin, Simon, and Theodore can’t stand. You know where this is going. The Chipmunks are put on a no fly list and end up on a road chip with the son to stop the proposal. Singing the most obnoxious modern pop and farting all the way. Since David Cross dodged a bullet, an overacting air marshall chases after them for contrived reasons.

Speaking of contrived, the whole ring plot was just one big misunderstanding. Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor are completely left out to focus on the Chipmunks exclusively. They’re off hosting American Idol and only come back to sing at the end. It seems insignificant, but Kaley Cuoco is a lousy replacement voice for Eleanor. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip ends with an adoption, the final “ALVINNN!!!,” and my sanity left at the door.

4. Alvin and the Chipmunks Road Chip

Alvin and the Chipmunks on the road

Preceded by: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Squeaky Clean

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is really when I started to worry. There’s no way to not make that pun painful. Despite the super kiddie G rating and plot you’ve seen in every cast away movie, my brother and I still went to see Chipwrecked. For me it was more out of obligation since I wasn’t even promised new characters from the cartoon. The cliché plot is like other Chipmunk island adventures. Except with a scale that’s been reduced once again.

Dave, the Chipmunks, and Chipettes (who are still living with them for some reason) go on an unexplained cruise. Follow the wacky antics, squeaky pop songs every few seconds, and mildly inappropriate behavior. Jason Lee couldn’t sit this one out again and neither could David Cross. This time he’s stuck in a pelican suit that was apparently the worst experience of his career. The Chipmunks and Chipettes get chipwrecked and they end up on an island with the lowest of stakes imaginable. Jenny Slate is there too for no apparent reason. Other than to be a forced surprise villain searching for buried treasure.

We’ve also got Alvin learning a lesson, Brittany building a treehouse, Simon becoming a French adventurer, Jeanette being forced to find the treasure, and Theodore & Eleanor doing whatever. There’s also a last minute volcano and concert that wasn’t mentioned before. It’s not that I expect more from a squeakquel titled Alvin and the Chipmunk: Chipwrecked, but boy did they go downhill fast.

4. Alvin and the Chipmunks Chipwrecked

The Chipmunks and Chipettes perform on an island

Preceded by: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel & Followed by: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Brittany and the Chipettes

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is the awkwardly titled squeakquel to the unexpectedly successful Alvin and the Chipmunks. In fact, The Squeakquel practically became infamous for that lame pun alone. That didn’t stop me from once again getting excited the moment I saw the teaser. My brother and I gasped the second the Chipettes were revealed. They were just as much a part of our childhoods as the Chipmunks, so we were hoping they’d make the leap to CGI live-action too.

The Chipettes were created in 1983 just to cover female songs of the time. Although they have minor differences, they’re really like every other gender flipped counterpart. I don’t think it was a performance issue, but Jason Lee is in almost none of the movie. With Dave in the hospital, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore get a babysitter fans would think is Miss Miller. Except it’s just a younger discount version of Dave played by Zachary Levi. The Squeakquel feels like a major downgrade since the Chipmunks trade their global popularity for attending high school. Which is bizarre not just because they’re small chipmunks and seem more like kids than teenagers.

The cliché plot is very unfocused. It’s either about David Cross returning as Ian to get revenge by exploiting the newly discovered Chipettes, the Chipmunks fitting in and falling out, trying to save their school’s music program, or winning a talent show. Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor were given the same updated treatment since their looks were distinctly 80’s. Their personalities are just too softened and their romantic dynamic with the Chipmunks feels off. Along with the just as unrecognizable voices of Christina Applegate, Anna Faris, and Amy Poehler. They also throw in the gopher mascot from NASCAR for some reason. The story feels just as juvenile, more low stakes, and pop songs are equally frequent. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel can still do no wrong for me regardless of direction.

3. Alvin and the Chipmunks The Squeakquel

Alvin and the Chipmunks perform with Brittany and the Chipettes

Preceded by: Alvin and the Chipmunks & Followed by: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

ALVINNN!!!

Alvin and the Chipmunks is one of a few live-action versions of a cartoon that I was legitimately excited to see. You better believe I was geeking out the moment I saw the cryptic teaser. I gasped the moment I heard Alvin and the Chipmunks sing “Funkytown” in their new CGI forms. Yes, my brother and I are just that big a fan of the iconic animated band. It may not look that way on the surface, but Alvin and the Chipmunks is different than most live-action cartoon adaptations. Since it was actually made by dedicated son of the original creator Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and his wife Janice Karmen.

Their voices weren’t used for the sort of pointless reason of having celebrity voices Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney. Not that you’d even hear their voices sped up like that. Unlike the cartoon, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are the actual size of chipmunks. With designs that are stylized, but still realistic. Their trademark personality traits are there, if a bit watered down. They’re first seen singing in a tree before entering Los Angeles during Christmas time. At least the movie doesn’t fabricate a new character since Dave Seville already acts as the human mediary. Jason Lee is just a bit miscast, has a lifeless romantic subplot, and a very weak “ALVINNN!!!” He may have been picked on for the role, but it’s really David Cross who steals the movie as sleazy record agent Ian.

Alvin and the Chipmunks enter Dave’s life and show off their singing talent. Singing “Christmas Don’t Be Late” (their real first song). Then they’re given decade appropriate hoodies instead of those weird robes, but Alvin is missing his trademark hat. The modern pop covers are obviously dated, the humor skews into poop & fart territory, and the plot is the same old “band let’s fame go to their heads” cliché. Yet I still enjoyed Alvin and the Chipmunks enough just seeing the band in real life and hearing some modulated favorites.

2. Alvin and the Chipmunks

Alvin and the Chipmunks perform live

Followed by: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

The Girls and Boys of Rock ‘n’ Roll

The Chipmunk Adventure finally put the world famous animated band Alvin and the Chipmunks on the big screen. Singer Ross Bagdasarian first created the band back in 1958 under the stage name Dave Seville. When he realized speeding up his voice made it sound squeaky. And thus, egomaniac Alvin, intellectual Simon, and butterball Theodore were born. Later given a show in 1961’s The Alvin Show. Then way more personality and popularity in the hit 1983 show Alvin and the Chipmunks. Made by Bagdasarian’s son and his wife. It’s where their female counterparts the Chipettes were introduced. With the mildly different primadonna Brittany, clutz Jeanette, and kindly Eleanor.

I’m actually the biggest Alvin and the Chipmunks nerd. My brother and I were big fans growing up. The Chipmunk Adventure was possibly our introduction to it and a prominent addition in our VHS collection. Like most 80’s Saturday-morning cartoons, the Chipmunks warranted their own movie. So they went with the bizarre premise of having the Chipmunks and Chipettes involved in a diamond smuggling ring in the guise of Around the World in 80 Days. The adventure itself only happens when Dave leaves for business and they trick their babysitter Miss Miller.

Alvin gets in a boys vs. girls competition with Brittany, which leads to the most catchy song number between them. Although it’s weirder when you learn the song “The Girls of Rock and Roll” was originally written for a sleazy beach movie. Animation is about the same as the show, if a little awkward on semi-stereotyped humans. I still have a lot of fun with the country hopping trip, but I know the Chipmunks aren’t for everyone. For me, The Chipmunk Adventure is a smash hit.

1. The Chipmunk Adventure

Alvin and the Chipmunks sing off against Brittany and the Chipettes

So Who’s Getting Married?

Wedding Crashers brought back the raunchy R rated adult comedy. Becoming a rare comedy that was a major box-office success. I remember it being a big hit when it came out, but I was obviously too young and not the biggest fan of those kinds of comedies. Seeing it years later I wish I’d seen it earlier, because Wedding Crashers is hilarious. The Frat Pack duo of Owen Wilson & Vince Vaughn are at the top of their game. They play John & Jeremy respectively.

They’re a pair of partying divorce mediating wedding crashers who get a thrill from drinking the free booze and scoring chicks. Something people of course do in real life, but it’s sleazy whatever the intention is. Although the wedding crashing doesn’t make up the entire movie. Since John starts to get second thoughts about the lifestyle. Wilson is more the straight man while Vaughn does his motormouth thing and takes the most abuse. At the wedding of a high profile secretary’s daughter, John falls for his other daughter played by Rachel McAdams. While Jeremy hooks up with the remaining daughter played by Isla Fisher.

John develops a meaningful connection with Claire that’s only a problem due to her colossal douche of a boyfriend Sack played by pre-fame Bradley Cooper. Meanwhile, Jeremy deals with the clingy nympho Gloria. Then again almost every member of their family are sex crazed psychos. Fisher is a major scene stealer, but it’s Will Farrell’s unexpected cameo that takes the wedding cake. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Wedding Crashers didn’t rely on profanity and that the raunchiness didn’t take away from a genuinely believable message of love & friendship.

Wedding Crashers

John (left) and Jeremy (right) crash a wedding

I Say a Little Prayer for You

My Best Friend’s Wedding is like most rom-coms with Julia Roberts. Except there’s a twist that elevates it into something less common, but more special. My Best Friend’s Wedding centers on the wedding of food critic Jules’ lifelong best friend Michael. Things got romantic once before, but they chose to remain close friends instead. Until the news of the wedding brings her feelings back up. Although Jules is the lead, she is technically the bad guy. Julia Roberts is just too charming to come across as unlikable.

Jules does everything in her power to call off the wedding and have Michael fall in love with her. The only snag is that Michael’s rich fiancé Kimmy is practically perfect. We have Cameron Diaz’s bubbly performance to thank for that. Jules’ scheming starts off soft by trying to humiliate Kimmy, then she goes a step too far by manipulating his job. She even has her gay editor friend George pose as her fiancé. Rupert Everett steals every scene by milking the situation every chance he gets.

The main reason I knew about the movie was the infectious impromptu song number he performs in the middle of dinner. I just never knew the context of the scene. Dionne Warwick’s “I Say a Little Pray (For You)” has My Best Friend’s Wedding to thank for its renewed popularity. Jules eventually professes her love for Michael and although you’d think they’d end up together, this ain’t that kind of rom-com. Since life doesn’t always work out that way. My Best Friend’s Wedding is more about personal growth and making you laugh all the way through.

My Best Friends Wedding

Jules invites Kimmy to sing

Is it Still Raining? I Hadn’t Noticed

Four Weddings and a Funeral is a quite rare romantic comedy that was nominated for Best Picture. Even in an Oscar heavy year like 1994. It was also the film that made Hugh Grant the romantic lead in every rom-com in the 90’s and early 2000’s. His doe-eyed Britishness really rubbed off on American audiences. Four Weddings and a Funeral is aptly named. Since it does in fact feature four separate weddings and a single funeral. Strangely enough, I’ve also attended exactly 4 weddings and 1 funeral in my life. The inspiration was from the writer attending weddings on a regular basis.

Grant plays Charles, a perpetually single bloke who’s always late to other people’s weddings. Until he encounters Andie MacDowell as American girl Carrie. Although they fancy each other, it never seems to be the right time for them. Each wedding (and funeral) is like a separate but connected segment with a humorous ensemble of single Brits. Wedding one is between two acquaintances. Its best bit is Charles misplacing the wedding rings. Wedding two is between two friends who hooked up at the last wedding. The more memorable bit is Rowan Atkinson as a nervous priest.

As well as Charles being hounded by past girlfriends and being stuck in the closet while the bride and groom consummate. Wedding three is more personal since it’s Carrie’s to another man. Followed by the unexpected funeral of a close friend. Wedding four is Charles and a mystery girl. Of course it wouldn’t be a rom-com if the wedding wasn’t called off with a kiss in the rain between true loves. That also contains the super cheesy line “Is it Still Raining? I Hadn’t Noticed.” Four Weddings and a Funeral is just too sincere not to make it all work.

Wedding 1

Charles congratulates Carrie

High School Party

Can’t Hardly Wait focuses solely on the party we see in almost every 80’s teen movie. Although Can’t Hardly Wait misses the 1999 teen movie craze by a year, I still included it in my marathon. I guarantee I probably wouldn’t have even heard of it if not for my love of cheesy teen flicks. Although the title doesn’t really indicate what it’s about. Can’t Hardly Wait is literally one big party scene. 1 hour & 41 minutes of non-stop teen partying, drinking, and PG-13 sex.

It gives attention to a collection of teen stars who appeared in the movie before they were famous. Along with a few major stars who weren’t even credited. Like Jerry O’Connell, Melissa Joan Hart, and Jenna Elfman to name a few. The after graduation party is attended by everyone from nerds to populars. Preston is the outcast who has an unspoken love for a popular girl. Something I can relate to. Jennifer Love Hewitt is the popular girl Amanda Beckett. The perpetually confused looking Amanda is every guy’s dream girl. Since she recently broke up with her jerk jock boyfriend Mike, Preston sees this as an opportunity to give her a letter containing his feelings.

Meanwhile, Preston’s anti-social friend Denise gets stuck in a bathroom with her childhood friend Kenny. A white kid who thinks he’s black that only Seth Green could play. They develop a romance that’s a bit more believable than the primary fairytale romance. There’s also a nerd who becomes the coolest guy at the party, a bickering band, struggling populars, and a bunch of colorful classmates. Can’t Hardly Wait is hardly realistic, but who cares when it’s this much fun.

CHW

Preston wants to talk to Amanda

Snake Goes Hollywood

Escape from L.A. is a little too Hollywood in terms of John Carpenter productions. But Snake Plissken became an icon and Kurt Russell wanted to play him again. So a sequel was manufactured for the high concept Escape from New York. Escape from L.A. now takes place in the distant future of 2013. Since it was 15 years since Snake escaped the supermax New York City. Now he’s somehow wound up in the exact same situation with a few minor differences.

Los Angeles has become a sinful wasteland that’s plunged partway into the ocean due to earthquakes. Cliff Robertson’s President has been made a permanent President after his prediction proved correct. His response is declaring all immoral citizens be deported to the L.A. island for life. I’m not saying it’s not plausible, but it is heavy handed. Instead of rescuing the President, Snake is ordered to take out the President’s free spirited daughter who’s dating a revolutionary terrorist. While at the same time retrieving a black box containing an EMP switch (instead of a tape). Snake still has a time limit, a bomb in his head, and the gotcha ending is almost exactly the same.

The main plus is that Snake sees way more action this time around. The only problem is Carpenter’s attempt at CGI. Which hasn’t aged well. Neither has the movie’s reliance on extreme 90’s action. Snake literally surfs a CGI tidal wave, hang glides from the Hollywood sign, and plays a life or death game of basketball. Escape from L.A. has some intriguing concepts and an interesting sequel set up, but it’s not enough just to change the city.

EFLA

Snake Plissken emerges from an explosion

Preceded by: Escape from New York