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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Chipettes DVD Review

Buy Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Chipettes DVD from Amazon.com Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983-87)
Show & DVD Details

Writers: Janice Karman, Ross Bagdasarian, Cliff Ruby, Elana Lesser, Dianne Dixon, Jack Enyart

Regular Voice Cast: Ross Bagdasarian (Alvin Seville, Simon Seville, Dave Seville), Janice Karman (Theodore Seville, Brittany Miller, Jeanette Miller, Eleanor Miller)

Running Time: 71 Minutes (6 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
Original Airdates: December 1983 - September 1987
Suggested Retail Price: $16.98 / DVD Release Date: January 13, 2009
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase

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Next Christmas, many young moviegoers are bound to see the live-action/CGI Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. For most, this will provide an introduction to the Chipettes, who they might reasonably assume are newly created.
In fact, the Chipettes have been around longer than some of their parents, for more than a quarter of a century.

Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor are the female counterparts of the more famous male anthropomorphic rodents. They reflect Alvin, Simon, and Theodore in personality, appearance, and preferred wardrobe color. That makes Brittany the go-getter, Jeanette the brainy one, and Eleanor plump. The girls were introduced in 1983, near the beginning of Alvin and company's long, fruitful second run in TV animation. Like Dave Seville's adopted sons, the girls are triplets, musically inclined, and treated like ordinary human children.

Well in advance of Fox's inevitable and inevitably profitable big screen sequel, Paramount is releasing another DVD of the '80s cartoons series. This latest disc, The Chipettes, compiles six episodes from the first five seasons of "Alvin and the Chipmunks".

Girls just wanna have fun, proclaim Chipettes Brittany, Eleanor, and Jeanette in the squeaky Cyndi Lauper cover that accompanies their cheerful circus elephant stunt rehearsal. Hospital volunteer Brittany gives a rather lackluster "Home Alone" audition for casting directors Simon and Alvin.

Oddly enough, the girls' debut episode, titled "The Chipettes", is not among the half-dozen included. Another logical inclusion, Season 3's "The Chipette Story", is also missing. Other installments that featured the girls prominently are left off as well, keeping this compilation close to an hour in length. That runtime is far below DVD capacity and also rather slight considering the $16.98 list price. Compare it to the multi-disc collections that Warner and Disney have given their animated series of the 1980s and '90s and, no doubt, Chipmunk fans are getting the short end of the stick.

In its defense, "Alvin and the Chipmunks" is better than most of its light, colorful kin and remains so twenty-five years later. Plus, it's not as if Paramount is the only studio whose number-crunching has yielded these kinds of releases, in which barely an hour's worth of yesteryear content is rendered an impulse buy for shelf-browsers. It's just too bad that a definitive Chipmunks DVD box set (of either the '60s or '80s variety) continues to elude copyright owners and customers.

In a nice and necessary touch, all the winning squeakily-covered pop tunes are retained here, as are the opening title sequences (but not end credits). The songs are listed below along with synopses of the featured episodes.

Brittany explains to Jeanette why she's the best choice for class president in this unsightly school hallway walk. Brittany dives to catch the hot tea with which "maid" Jeanette is about to scold a snooty Sister. A much-madeover Jeanette comes clean in the Miss Wonderful Beauty Contest of "My Fair Chipette."

1. "May the Best Chipmunk Win" (12:04) (Originally aired December 10, 1983)
After the Chipettes transfer to the Chipmunks' school, Brittany seeks to make an impression by running for class president.
Songs from The Chipettes DVD:


Alvin and the Chipmunk Hits:


The only catch: she's running against Alvin. Jeanette gets courted as the deciding voter.
Songs: "It's My Party" (Lesley Gore), "Celebration" (Kool & the Gang)

2. "Operation Theodore" (12:04) (Originally aired October 27, 1984)
In an upsetting display of medical incompetence, hospital volunteer Brittany races to prevent Theodore from being mistakenly operated on after he stands in for a mischievous tonsillitic patient.
Song: "The Longest Time" (Billy Joel)

3. "Sisters" (11:29) (Originally aired October 5, 1985)
Disregarding familial loyalties, Brittany betrays Jeanette in hopes of gaining admission to The Sisters, an elite clique of snobby girls.
Song: "Material Girl" (Madonna, written by Peter Brown and Robert Rans)

4. "The Greatest Show-Offs on Earth" (12:04) (Originally aired November 17, 1984)
To save Uncle Ben's circus from foreclosure, the Chipmunks and Chipettes prepare a celebrity circus, complete with a breakout of Pinky the elephant.
Song: "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (Cyndi Lauper, written by Robert Hazard)

5. "My Fair Chipette" (12:04) (Originally aired November 10, 1984)
The Chipmunks do Pygmalion, as Alvin bets Brittany he can transform anyone -- even Jeanette -- into the Miss Wonderful Beauty Pageant queen.
Songs: "On the Good Ship Lollipop" (Shirley Temple, written by Richard A. Whiting and Sidney Clare), "Miss Wonderful" (original)

6. "Tell It to the Judge" (11:34) (Originally aired September 15, 1987)
Alvin crashes Dave's new six-speed bicycle into a roller-skating Brittany. When she won't pay for the repairs, he takes her to "Public Court" for some televised justice.
Song: "Fun, Fun, Fun" (The Beach Boys)

If Jeanette is pitching, Eleanor is catching, and Brittany is batting, one has to wonder just how the Chipettes are playing the Chipmunks in the opening title baseball game. To make up for not featuring much on this DVD, tie-wearing Eleanor gets to present the Episode Selection lockers.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture quality is disappointing. Presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, none of the episodes look as good as DVD and rudimentary restoration allow for. The video is generally faded and occasionally littered by flaws. While the latter usually consists of a scratch or speck here or there, sometimes it's worse as in an orange line that runs down the screen for much of "Tell It to the Judge." The colors are all over the place, typically looking pale and not reflecting the usual '80s Chipmunks palette.
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Some look overly compressed (which they definitely shouldn't on such a light platter), some look soft. Though some look better than others, none is pleasing. On the whole, we're talking VHS or VCD quality.

The soundtrack is encoded in two channels, but whether it's stereo like the case says or mono like early '80s TV programming usually is, I don't know. I do know that the lack of subtitles is unfortunate, as usual. You'll also notice some hiss and interference.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

There are no extras here, unless you count a disc-launching, menu-accessible general promo for animated Alvin and the Chipmunks DVDs. That's not surprising because Paramount has just about never provided original supplements for such compilations.

Static and silent, the only two menu screens match the cover art in style (and the rear design in artwork). No inserts are found within the keepcase.

Alvin and Brittany air their grievances with injury props on the Wapner-inspired "Public Court." The Chipmunks and Chipettes join forces to cheer up a tonsillitic surgical patient the only way they know how to: with 1980s Billy Joel doo-wop.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You could be a really big fan of the '80s "Chipmunks" and of the Chipettes in particular and I'd still hesitate recommending this hastily-produced DVD compilation for you. If you just want a fix of the series, last year's 2-disc "Alvinnn!!! Edition" offers a better value, supplying two and a half times as much content for just a few dollars more. For about the same price, you can also go with The Chipmunk Adventure, which offers a better presentation, a soundtrack CD, and plenty of the Chipettes. In short, you'd have to be a pretty Chipmunk/Chipette-crazy completist to buy this right away.

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Related Reviews:
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Alvinnn!!! Edition The Chipmunk Adventure (Special Edition) Alvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007 Movie Special Edition)
Alvin and the Chipettes: Cinderella, Cinderella Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Mystery of the Easter Chipmunk
The Chipmunks Go to the Movies: Daytona Jones and the Pearl of Wisdom Funny, We Shrunk the Adults Star Wreck
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Reviewed January 7, 2009.



Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1983-87 Bagdasarian Productions and 2009 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.