Ahhh, the days before the scary CGI chipmunks. The days when the chipmunks were 2D, as tall as normal kids and looked absolutely NOTHING like real chipmunks. Now, they make rude jokes and sing songs like Single Ladies. And honestly? I don’t know if back then was any better.
I remember loving this movie as a kid. My sisters and I would watch it, laugh at it, sing the songs, and dream about taking balloon rides around the world. It was fun. Watching it now as an adult, it is still fun. But there are many – MANY – things I don’t like about this movie.
I’m going to start with the things I like about this movie, because honestly once I get into the bad things I have a feeling I will start rambling. The songs, in my opinion, are great. There’s a lot of original songs in here mixed in with some Chipmunk classics, and the new songs are on the whole pretty catchy. Years later, I still remembered them almost word for word (that shows you how much we watched this…). Many of them are upbeat, but some are really heartfelt. The Chipettes singing a song about how important your mother is to a baby penguin is just… it’s so cute. Watching it now, I almost wished that I had paid more attention to the song as a kid. I would have run up and given my mom a big hug after that.
The upbeat songs are great as well, and for the most part they work well with the story. Some are actually performed by the chipmunks/chipettes, and some are sung over montages. Both work well, and most of the songs do move the story forward. The only one that is kinda just stuck in the middle of nowhere is the song “The Girls of Rock and Roll,” which, if anyone has seen the movie, you just kinda have to start singing it once you mention it. It just sort of happens. Anyway, it is kinda in the movie for no good reason, but it’s a fun song and super catchy (side note: this song was actually written to be performed by a radio artist – I don’t know who… cyndi lauper? Tiffany? Someone in the 80s, but they passed and so it was put in the movie instead).
I also really enjoy the characters and the playful banter/hatred shared between Alvin and Brittany. It’s a strange dynamic and I know the chipettes are honestly just female carbon copies of the chipmunks, but if anything that’s why it’s funny. The personalities mesh or don’t mesh so well that you get a lot of interesting lines. I only really wish that they would have spent more time the 6 of them then split up for the movie.
Some of the side characters I also thoroughly enjoy. The house-sitter Miss Miller I really remember loving as a kid, and she’s not any worse now. She’s an older lady that seems to have a few screws loose and is extremely gullible and clueless. The other characters (and there are a lot of very random 2-line or even no-line characters) are kinda eh. There’s not much to them. They’re there to fulfill a purpose, and they do, but they’re not there for much else.
Alright. Now to what I dislike. The reason I didn’t explain the plot earlier is because it’s sort of in my borderline like/dislike list. I like the idea of the plot: The chipmunks and the chipettes are competing in a balloon race around the world to see who is the best. They visit different places and at each of these places they must deliver a stuffed doll to prove they were there. That part of the plot, I like. If they had kept it like that and just made it a story about all the weird people they ran into and the crazy adventures they had, it might have been perfectly fine and easy for kids to follow. But no. They couldn’t make it that easy.
Instead, on top of that plot I just told you, they have this other diamond smuggling…. Thing. The two people who sponsored the race are diamond smugglers and the dolls that the kids are using to prove they were where they were are really stuffed with diamonds being delivered to clients. They receive a doll in return, which is filled with money – a payment. The detective agency is trying to track them down and arrest them for their crimes, and so there are these two guys following the kids trying to stop them.
As a kid, this is a bit complicated. Because the way it’s set up, we’re supposed to believe that the two diamond smugglers, Claus and Claudia, are quasi-bad guys. You get the idea they’re doing it for their own thing and using the kids, but they’re never actually established for what they actually are: criminals who smuggle diamonds. Instead, our antagonists of the movie are actually the two detectives who chase after the kids, trying to stop them from delivering the dolls. They are depicted as mean individuals (I mean, they have gold teeth and evil smiles – they HAVE to be the bad guys, right?), when in fact they are actually the good guys. They’re working to try and stop the diamonds from being smuggled.
It’s almost as if they wanted to make something complicated for the kids watching so that they could then at the end do a switch and some sort of twist ending. I don’t know. I don’t think it works. I just always remember the end at the airport when everyone is chasing everyone else, Dave gets into the car with the main inspector guy. I remember thinking as a kid “don’t get into the car with him, he’s the bad guy!!!”. But he’s not! Ugh. It’s complicated. I don’t know why they did it like this (actually it was probably because we’re seeing it through the kids eyes), and honestly it’s a bit confusing.
Believe or not, that’s not actually my worst qualm with the movie. Well, it sort of is. The other big issue I have with this movie is more complicated than plot. I’m sure I’ll get more into this subject in later movies (I’m looking at you old Disney movies), but I have to talk about it now: Stereotypes. Oh. My. Gosh. This movie is wrought with them. Now I do think some people overanalyze and over criticize a lot of movies for being racist or depicting a certain person or group of people as stereotypes, but this movie could be the poster child. Let’s see. There’s so many to choose from, where should we start….
How about the villains, Claus and Claudia. They’re caucasian, slimy, and speak in an accent that I’m assuming is german (although I swear sometimes it seems russian). Yeah. As if that wasn’t done on purpose. When the chipmunks are in mexico the people are seen as fat, jolly, and they have taco stands shaped like sombreros and have festivals everyday. The king in egypt (I think that’s the county?) who captures the chipettes is about 8 years old, wears a turban and has a harem. He sends the dolls the girls have to a room guarded by cobras. Oh and the tribal people in indonesia. I can’t really even explain them enough to do them justice. They’re almost depicted as stupid and uncivilized, yet somehow they know the song Wooly Bully? Yeah. This is a big problem I have with this movie. I feel like a teensy bit more research could have gone into making the places the kids went a bit more realistic. That would have been really cool actually.
Let’s face it: the chipmunks have never really been perfect roll models. They’re fun, but at the same time they’re just… I don’t even know how to describe them. They’re rude kids. They break the rules. They fight. I don’t know. I feel all disillusioned. I still love their Christmas songs though. And I do still like this movie. I just don’t love it.
In the end, I’m going to give A Chipmunk Adventure 2.5 stars out of 5. It’s worth watching once for the songs. Honestly though, just downloading the songs off iTunes works just as well. The chipmunks started as singing stars, and that’s really where they should stay.
Next Up: Ferngully (1992)