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The Chipmunks Go the Movies DVDs Reviewed: Funny, We Shrunk the Adults Daytona Jones and the Pearl of Wisdom Star Wreck

Alvin and the Chipmunks Go to the Movies: Funny, We Shrunk the Adults DVD Review

Buy Alvin and the Chipmunks Go to the Movies: Funny, We Shrunk the Adults from Amazon.com The Chipmunks Go to the Movies (1990)
Show & DVD Details

Creators/Executive Producers: Ross Bagdasarian, Janice Karman

Writers: Dianne Dixon, Bob Carrau / Supervising Producer/Director: Don Spencer / Co-Producers: Cliff Ruby, Elana Lesser

Voice Cast: Ross Bagdasarian (Alvin Seville, Simon Seville, Dave Seville), Janice Karman (Theodore Seville, Brittany Miller, Eleanor Miller, Jeanette Miller), Frank Welker, Dody Goodman, Thom Watkins

Running Time: 69 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio)
Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 (English); Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
Original Airdates: September 8 - December 15, 1990
Suggested Retail Price: $16.99 / DVD Release Date: April 1, 2008
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase

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Alvin and the Chipmunks have ridden a few waves of popularity. Fifty years ago, they were introduced by Ross Bagdasarian in a pair of chart-topping novelty songs, the unofficial "Witch Doctor" and the enduring holiday favorite "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)."
By 1961, the now-established three anthropomorphic chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, Theodore) and their human father/manager Dave Seville had their own primetime CBS animated series, "The Alvin Show." Though the show lasted just one season, the singing Chipmunks were churning out a new album roughly every year in the '60s.

Bagdasarian's premature passing in 1972 at the age of 52 momentarily halted the careers of his most famous creations. But reruns of "The Alvin Show" turned up on NBC in 1979, paving the way for a new album and a new TV special with 30-year-old Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. assuming his father's performing and producing responsibilities. The success of the special (1981's A Chipmunk Christmas) cleared the path for a new cartoon series, "Alvin and the Chipmunks", which became part of NBC's Saturday morning lineup in 1983. The Eighties proved to be the right decade for the group; the show would run for eight seasons, generating three Daytime Emmy nominations and a big screen outing in 1987.

More recently, the live-action/CG-animated film Alvin and the Chipmunks became one of 2007's highest grossers with worldwide earnings of over $350 million to date. With that successful feature on DVD today from Fox, Paramount is reaching into its catalogue and releasing a pair of DVDs that showcase the Chipmunks' second heyday, the '80s one.

Alvin imitates the MGM lion in the title logo for the 8th season/1990 series "The Chipmunks Go to the Movies." Much like the spawn of Rick Moranis' Dr. Wayne Szalinski, the Chipmunks' human father Dave Seville and neighbors' babysitter Zelda use an insect for transportation after getting tiny, in "Funny, We Shrunk the Adults."

The subject of this review, Alvin and the Chipmunks Go to the Movies: Funny, We Shrunk the Adults, provides three episodes from the eighth and final season of "Alvin and the Chipmunks." In 1990, the NBC show was retooled and retitled "The Chipmunks Go to the Movies", with each installment inspired by a popular recent film.

There were only thirteen episodes produced in this incarnation, so "The Chipmunks Go to the Movies" (which is not to be confused with the 1969 album of the same name) is practically crying for a two-disc, complete series DVD. Paramount doesn't see it that way, though. So less than a year after the studio released a 3-episode compilation, we get another 3-episode compilation. To boot, the episode which lends its title to the disc was already one of the 3 included on last spring's "Go to the Movies" DVD. Try figuring out the logic in that.

Short synopses of the three featured shows, which barely qualify as parodies of three of the most beloved PG-rated comedies of the 1980s (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Big, and Back to the Future), follow.

1. "Funny, We Shrunk the Adults" (22:34) (Originally aired December 1, 1990)
While Alvin is treating new girl next door Dena and her brothers to unbridled fun at the chipmunks' house, Simon's shrinking machine -- er, matter compactor -- inadvertently reduces Dave and the neighbors' babysitter to a diminutive size. The tiny adults try to stay safe and get noticed. This episode runs shorter than the other two because it is presented without end credits, making its conclusion feel all the more abrupt.
Songs: "Short People" (Randy Newman), "Coming Up Short" (original)

In "Bigger", young Alvin grows into an adult, gets a grown-up job, and begins making important decisions about music the way Josh Baskin did for toys. Things get weird, wild, and witty as the 1990 Chipmunks meet their 1950s counterparts in the great episode "Back to Our Future."

2. "Bigger" (23:05) (Originally aired September 15, 1990)
Longing for the Chipmunks' band the Fur Balls to be taken seriously, Alvin makes a wish on a magic jukebox machine at the county fairgrounds and instantly becomes a grown-up in body.
His sudden growth helps land him a fun job at a record studio, managing the Chipettes' band The Babes. But he soon learns adulthood isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Songs: "I Wanna Be Big", "Girls of Rock 'n Roll" (original), "I Love Rock 'n Roll" (Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker of The Arrows, popularized by Joan Jett)

3. "Back to Our Future" (23:05) (Originally aired September 8, 1990)
The Chipmunks are paid a visit by their old friend Clyde Crashcup, who has invented a blender-like time machine. He takes the 'munks back to 1957, where the group's future success seems in doubt with Alvin leaning towards abandoning singing for ironing. The clash of the '50s and '90s Chipmunks, complete with different looks and sensibilities, is mined for much fun as the two groups switch places and befuddle Dave.
Songs: "Back in Time" (Huey Lewis, Chris Hayes), "Witch Doctor" (excerpt), "Alvin's Harmonica", "Do the Alvin Twist"

Between this release and Paramount's 2007 disc, which accompanied "Funny, We Shrunk" with Batman spoof "Batmunk" and Star Trek V parody "Star Wreck: The Absolutely Final Frontier", a total of five "Go to the Movies" episodes are now available on legitimate DVDs. (It seems likely that the 2007 DVD might go out of print with this new one around.) Three other episodes were released individually in the mid-1990s on videocassettes from Walt Disney Home Video. They are "Kong!" (1976's King Kong), "Daytona Jones and the Pearl of Wisdom" (the Indiana Jones films), and "Robomunk" (RoboCop).

As for the remaining five "Go to the Movies" episodes that have never been issued on VHS or DVD, they are: "S.T. the Space Traveler" (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial), "Irrational Buffoon's European Vacation" (National Lampoon's European Vacation), "Chip Tracy" (Dick Tracy), "Gremlionis" (Gremlins), and "Sploosh" (Splash).

Theodore and Simon can't believe that this adult is Alvin, despite the clearly matching (and outgrown) Fur Balls T-shirt. Old videocassette cover art is recycled for the DVD's plain, main, and only menu.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture quality is quite poor. Little care seems to have gone into making the nearly 20-year-old episodes look presentable. While a fair share of the shortcomings certainly can be traced back to the budget animation, DVD only serves to emphasize the print intrusions that pose a pretty serious distraction. The visuals always have a soft, unpolished look to them. Meanwhile, the Dolby Stereo soundtrack is none too easy on the ears. Though squeakiness has always been the name of the Chipmunks' game,
here it sometimes borders on jarring and never is crisp or vital. Further disappointing, neither foreign language dubs nor any subtitle tracks are provided, though at least closed captions are offered.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Barebones is the only way to describe the DVD. There's nary a bonus feature in sight, not even commercials for other relevant titles. It's clear that this release isn't aiming to satisfy completists and major fans, but one imagines that something worth deeming special could have very easily been provided or put together.

Par for the no-frills presentation, the DVD serves up just a single menu, which is neither animated nor audible. I guess we should be glad that we're given the choice to play one episode or all three.

Besides the disc, all one finds inside the standard black keepcase is a single-sided insert advertising the Chipmunks' official website.

After single-handedly setting up the TV, Theodore excitingly presents "Funny, We Shrunk the Adults", though he gets the pronoun wrong. Roads? Where the mustache-nosed Clyde Crashcup and the Chipmunks are going, they don't need roads...

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"The Chipmunks Go to the Movies" probably doesn't represent Alvin, Simon, and Theodore at their very best, but though the series is a bit crude technically, it endures as a lot of fun thanks to the inspired loose retellings of films still treasured today. Paramount's 3-episode DVD makes little effort to spruce up the 18-year-old series. The spotty picture/sound, complete lack of bonuses, and frustratingly light serving all add up to something that's bound to disappoint fans of the Chipmunks and this particular incarnation. Furthermore, while the list price is reasonable enough to put this in the intended impulse buy range, it's not low enough to consider a good value.

However, with the DVD format over ten years old and the rampant availability of catalog TV content about seven, comprehensive sets of the 1980s "Alvin and the Chipmunks" are looking unlikely, even with the new life born out of Fox's recent blockbuster. Thus, whether due to song clearances or merely studio reluctance, a compilation like this might be your only legal chance to own "Alvin" and "Movies" episodes on DVD. That reality and the strength of the featured series are enough to pay some notice to this disc in spite of all the reasons not to.

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Reviewed April 1, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1990 DIC Enterprises, Inc. and Bagdasarian Productions, 2008 Paramount Home Entertainment.
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