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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Blu-ray & DVD Combo Review

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel movie poster Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Theatrical Release: December 23, 2009 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Betty Thomas / Writers: Jon Vitti, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger (screenplay); Ross Bagdasarian, Janice Karman (characters)

Cast: Zachary Levi (Toby Seville), David Cross (Ian Hawke), Jason Lee (David Seville), Justin Long (Voice of Alvin), Matthew Gray Gubler (Voice of Simon), Jesse McCartney (Voice of Theodore), Amy Poehler (Voice of Eleanor), Anna Faris (Voice of Jeanette), Christina Applegate (Voice of Brittany), Wendie Malick (Dr. Rubin), Anjelah Johnson (Julie Ortega), Kathryn Joosten (Aunt Jackie Seville), Kevin G. Schmidt (Ryan), Chris Warren, Jr. (Xander), Bridgit Mendler (Becca)

Chipmunk/Chipette Songs: "You Really Got Me" (featuring Honor Society), "Daydream Believer", "Stayin' Alive", "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)", "Bring It On", "The Song" (featuring Queensberry), "Put Your Records On", "I Want to Know What Love Is", "Follow Me Now" (featuring Jason Gleed), "Hot N Cold", "We Are Family", "Shake Your Groove Thing"

Buy Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Single-Disc DVD Double DVD Pack Double DVD Pack (Shared Case Bundle)


By Aaron Wallace

Three things could have made 2007's Alvin and the Chipmunks more than the middling comedy it was:
(1) Bob Saget playing Dave Seville, (2) taller chipmunks, and (3) fewer gangster beats. When it comes to 2009's sequel (er, Squeakquel), though, I'm not sure that anything but rodenticide could do the trick. Fox has made real pests of these childhood icons and, sadly, they've made their nest at the top of the box office charts.

In Fox's universe, Alvin and his famous brethren are cheeky little tykes, but also stupid and naive. Alvin can't grasp the concept of an alarm clock, for example. They're freakishly small -- far more chipmunk-sized than they've ever been before and uncomfortably disproportionate to the humans they spend all their time with. They're also CGI, and not the realistic kind, but the kind that screams (in a squeaky pitch), "we were made with computers!" They're not at all characters that one would expect to endure for decades, but then these aren't the chipmunks anyone grew up with.

Theodore, Alvin, and Simon are smitten upon first sight of The Chipettes. In The Squeakquel, Jason Lee's Dave Seville gets "Chucked" for his younger relative instead, played by Zachary Levi.

The last Chipmunks movie left off with the eponymous group having skyrocketed to fame. They had hit songs, sold-out shows, and hordes of screaming fans. Naturally, then, the sequel finds them going where any headlining rock stars go: high school.

When a ridiculously contrived injury leaves David Seville (Jason Lee) seriously injured, the chipmunks are sent to stay with Toby (Zachary Levi), a twenty-something slob and Dave's distant relative. That's nearly the last we hear from Dave, a puzzling move that has the effect of just recasting the role while still keeping Jason Lee in the billing. For all intents and purposes, Toby is just a younger, less responsible Dave. He's less entertaining too.

While the Brothers 'Munk are getting swirlies from cookie-cutter jocks in high school, three female chipmunks -- better known as The Chipettes -- are seeking fame of their own. To get it, they look up the first film's antagonist, Ian Hawke (David Cross). The fallen record label exec is all too eager to make the talented trio his new meal ticket, but he's also strangely fixated on revenge against Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. His actions quickly swing out of alignment with his motivations, leading to improbable superstar battles unfolding inside the halls of some random public school.

Dreamsquirrels, or the Chipette nudity you've been waiting for! Chris Warren, Jr. (left) just can't get away from High School Musicals. Apparently, neither can The Chipmunks.

Not much else happens in The Squeakquel, bad jokes and an unpleasant gas gag aside. Oh, and singing -- lots of pitch-manipulated singing.
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In contrast to the first movie's hip hop-laden soundtrack, which still managed to incorporate a number of the Chipmunks' classic tunes, the catalog covered here comes almost entirely from recent but already dated Top 40 charts. Well, there are a couple of old songs -- like Alvin's bizarre "Stayin' Alive" cover, in which the Bee Gees lyrics are morphed into an ode to cheese puffs. Sadly, that scene is about the only chance we get to see the chipmunks being themselves, hanging out and not running ragged from one lame plot point to the next.

Fox's first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie was less than great, but it was so much more than this. Unfortunately, this second installment eclipsed even the staggering success of the first at the box office. I'm going to blame that on people's eagerness to see just about anything in theaters during Christmas week, rather than draw any more depressing conclusions about the moviegoing public. Of course, the DVD-buying public will likely take to this movie too. I beg you not to be one of them. If you insist, though, you'll have three options: a single-disc DVD, a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, and a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. The rest of this article covers the lattermost of those releases.

Buy Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

BD: 1.85:1 Widescreen; DVD: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
BD: DTS-HD 5.1 (English, Descriptive Video Service), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Video), Dolby Surround (Spanish, French)
BD Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish; DVD Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Blu-ray Extras Subtitled; DVD Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Three single-sided discs (BD-50, DVD-9 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase with slipcover
Also available in 1-Disc DVD ($29.98 SRP), Double DVD Pack (with "The Squeak Along" bonus disc) ($34.98 SRP), and Single-Case Double DVD Pack Bundle ($34.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The movie is presented in a 1080p, AVC-encoded hi-def transfer preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Predictably, the picture quality is excellent, shining with bright and sometimes even dazzling colors and very pleasing contrast. Even bad movies can look very good.

The primary audio track here is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which sounds very good. The track isn't exceptionally active or dynamic but it does make use of all the channels on occasion. Clarity isn't an issue, of course, and I find the track to be entirely satisfactory even if unremarkable. Other audio tracks included: English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, French Dolby Digital 5.1, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. The following subtitle tracks are present: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Spanish (no French). Bonus features are subtitled in English.

"Cheese puff" isn't a bad description for The Squeakquel, but it is a bad subject for new lyrics to "Stayin' Alive." Nevertheless, Alvin does indeed dedicate the Bee Gees classic to his favorite snack.

The DVD's anamorphic transfer, which also presents the movie in 1.85:1 widescreen, is decent but not much better than that. The picture is noticeably soft and sometimes blurry. Edge enhancement sometimes rears its ugly head too.

The DVD's English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track holds up about as well as the Blu-ray's DTS-HD track. The channels are all in play but there's not a lot of directionality. Still, clarity isn't an issue and the track gets the job done. There are also English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, French Dolby Surround, and Spanish Dolby Surround tracks. Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired and in Spanish. Bonus features are not subtitled.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The back cover of Fox's Blu-ray/DVD Combo boasts a long list of bonus features, but everything aside from eight featurettes is just filler. The Blu-ray disc's supplements (which far outnumber those found on the DVD included in this set) are profiled below.

This scene appears in both the movie and the "'Munk Music Machine" bonus feature, but that superimposed Simon appears only in the latter. Why's he there? Your guess is as good as mine.

The first extra might be the strangest one I've ever seen. "'Munk Music Machine" (10:57 total) (HD) simply plays all of the songs in the movie one after another by cutting directly to those scenes -- one at a time, in rapid succession, or in a continuous loop (the choice is yours). That's not too unusual for a musical movie on DVD.
Occasionally, though, a random graphic of a chipmunk dancing is superimposed in the corner of the screen. There's no apparent rhyme or reason to when or how often they show up and I can't for the life of me figure out why they're there. Weird, weird, weird.

"Music in a Nutshell" is a text commentary track that runs throughout the movie but relates only to the soundtrack. This is basically a feature-length episode of "Pop-Up Video", which is appropriate, given that VH1's logo "pops up" in the background of the movie itself all the time. Most of the info here is fairly obvious and more readily accessible on Wikipedia.

"A-l-v-i-n-n-nn-n!!! Album Maker" (HD) is a maddening interactive activity in which players are asked to piece together a Chipmunks album of some sort. Different age-based "difficulty levels" are available but don't seem to matter. There are lots of buttons to click on with your remote but I can't make heads or tails of any of them. I ended up with a gray square covered by two lop-sided guitars and a microphone that looks more like a needle. It wouldn't pass muster in a marketing department. You'll forgive me if, after that, I gave up.

Then there are eight featurettes. First: "Munking History: 50 Years of Chipmunk Mischief, Mayhem and Music" (9:21) (HD). This makes for a nice, retrospective (but all too brief) look at the history of The Chipmunks' career. Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and Janice Karman offer some nice reflections on what made the characters so relevant for so long. When the cameras turn to the Squeakquel cast, the level of analysis plummets, perhaps revealing something about the mindlessness of this latest incarnation.

"Meet the Chipettes" (8:37) (HD) spends time with the three big name actresses who you'd never ever know voiced the Chipettes in this movie: Christina Applegate, Anna Faris, and Amy Poehler. This is actually a pretty interesting featurette, for it shows us the unusual voice recording process that produces that signature chipmunk sound, even while illustrating the absurdity of casting A-listers in roles that could just as easily be filled by unknowns (or Karman, as on the '80s cartoon). The flippant way in which the cast talks about the characters underscores this movie's disrespectful treatment of them, but I will say that Poehler is really funny throughout all of her interview and recording segments.

"Rockin' Rising Stars" (6:21) (HD) is a throwaway featurette for anyone who isn't already a fan of High Society, one of the real-life music acts that joins the Chipmunks in this movie. Charice Pempengco is also profiled just a bit, but fans of her considerable talent probably aren't too impressed with her mediocre Alicia Keys cover here.

Rosero here spent a whole career learning to dance but he seems to think he can teach you to do it in less than nine minutes. Want to prove him wrong? Buy the Blu-ray!

"Music Mania" (9:04) (HD) is a modestly revealing look at some of the choreography work in the film. Live-action dancers were used as stand-ins for the CGI characters and we get to see some of that in this piece.

"The Chipmunks: Behind the Squeaking" (9:40) (HD) is a fluff piece in which the cast talks about Alvin, Simon, and Theodore if they are real persons.
Alvin in particular is cast as a celebrity elitist. The female cast members talk about their various flings with Alvin and Amy Poehler's hilarious interview is the only redeeming part of this featurette. The level of innuendo in this is surprising.

"A-Nut-omy of a Scene" (2:39) (HD) is a very brief look at a couple of techniques used in filming live-action scenes in which the characters don't yet exist.

"Meet the Stuffies!" (4:09) (HD) picks up where the "A-Nut-omy" left off, though this one's fluffier, focusing on the stuffed dolls sometimes used as Chipmunk stand-ins.

"Shake Your Groove Thing!" with Rosero" (8:59) (HD). Rosero's a dancer. He'll teach you to dance like a chipmunk. Interested? That makes one of us.

Finally, there are music videos for five songs featured in the movie. They differ from the movie scenes in which those songs appear -- but only insofar as they've been recut with different scenes from the same movie. The music videos are: "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" (3:07) (HD), "We Are Family" (3:12) (HD), "Shake Your Groove Thing" (4:35) (HD), "You Really Got Me" (with High Society) (2:02) (HD), and "The Song" (with Queensberry) (3:09) (HD). The first three of those offer optional on-screen lyrics. There's a "Play All" option too.

Alvin and his brothers are thugged out in the 16x9 DVD main menu, which closely resembles the Blu-ray menu.

There are only two bonus features on the DVD, which is identical to the single-disc version sold on its own. They are "'Munk Music Machine" (SD) and "Music Mania" (9:04) (SD). The "Double DVD Pack" released concurrently supplies the eight featurettes and five music videos on its second disc, making only the text track and album maker entirely exclusive to Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray also supports BD Live interactivity. A third disc offers a digital copy of the movie (a big selling point for some).

When the Blu-ray disc is inserted, previews for Fox Digital Copy, Avatar, and Marley & Me: The Terrible 2's play automatically. The Extras menu includes additional sneak peeks at Tooth Fairy and Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back. Note: only these latter two are available from the main menu (where a "Play All" is available for just those two); the other three can only be seen upon start-up. The DVD loads with the same previews, but Tooth Fairy and Fantastic Mr. Fox are added to the mix. The DVD's Extras menu includes ads for Strawberry Shortcake: Sky's the Limit, "Family Favorites" (a generic reel promoting numerous Fox family films), Space Chimps 2, and Flicka 2. Again, the start-up previews are not accessible from the menu.

There are three discs inside the standard Blu-ray case: the Blu-ray, the DVD, and a Digital Copy disc. A cardboard sleeve atop the keepcase replicates the primary cover art, which again tries to make Theodore look like Turtle from "Entourage". Inside the case is a Fox Pop flyer and a guide to using the digital copy.

The Blu-ray's main menu is a pretty lively one, with the characters dancing on screen and trading places with rotating movie clips, all against a nicely rendered backdrop of musical emblems and other fun shapes. Annoying songs from the movie play in the background. Scene selection and bookmarking features are available. The DVD's 16x9 main menu screen in substantially the same, sans bookmarking.

Watching The Squeakquel, I kept thinking "just shoot me". Wendie Malick's principal role was pure coincidence. Record exec Ian Hawke (David Cross) suits up in hi-tech gadgetry so he can make a big impression in the world's music mecca: a high school gymnasium.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I'll give Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel one thumb down for every undeserving dollar it made. If there's anything redeeming about the movie, it's that some distant remnant of truly great characters is still discernible beneath the computer-generated shrink job that Fox has done on them. At least this PG comedy largely steers clear of smut.

There's no reason to buy this on Blu-ray, DVD, or any combination thereof. While the Blu-ray sports an outstanding transfer, the DVD included inside does not, and the audio track on either is nothing more than average. The bonus features aren't as plentiful or worthwhile as they seem. Of course, it's the movie that matters most, and this movie doesn't really matter at all. Turn to Paramount and enjoy the Chipmunks in their theatrical debut, The Chipmunk Adventure, instead.

Buy Blu-ray Combo from Amazon.com / Buy 1-Disc DVD / Buy Double DVD Pack (in Shared Case)

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Reviewed April 8, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2009 20th Century Fox, Regency Entertainment, Dune Entertainment III LLC, Monarchy Enterprises S.a.r.l.
and 2010 Fox Home Entertainment. Screencaps from DVD. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.