New on DVD: Alvin and the Chipmunks

Alvin and the Chipmunks have been reborn for a new generation, returning to the big screen after 20 years – and it’s not bad.

Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) are unceremoniously relocated to the big city from their forest home. Lost and scared, they impulsively attach themselves to down-on-his-luck songwriter Dave Seville (Jason Lee). Startled by their ability to talk, his initial reaction is less than hospitable; but upon discovering their aptitude for singing, he takes them in and is inspired by their youthfulness. Thus, “The Chipmunk Song” is born. Despite Dave’s unwillingness to admit it, he nurtures the boys, creating the family dynamic the boys require. But his record executive (David Cross) has other exploitive plans, spoiling the Chipmunks with gifts and exhausting them with jam-packed schedules.

There’s a tendency in animation to use celebrity voices; however, after the voice tweaking to achieve the chipmunk pitch is completed, Long, Gubler and McCartney’s voices are indistinguishable. Without the credits, you wouldn’t even know it was them. On the other hand, it was a relief when the furry creatures opened their mouths and they sounded “like them.” Lee also does a good job bringing Dave outside of the animated-realm, almost nailing the infamous scream “Alvin!”

The live-action/computer animated update changes the story of how Dave came to be the Chipmunks’ guardian, taking a page from Chip-n-Dale’s book. (Originally their mother left them on Dave’s doorstep during a particularly bad winter; Chip-n-Dale were re-located to Mickey Mouse’s house when their fir was selected to be a Christmas tree.) But the hi-jinks are all Chipmunks, as the boys turn Dave’s life upside-down then right side-up again. Moreover, the moving scenes are truly affecting and are good contrast to all the hilarity.

The soundtrack, which is obviously a key element, is enjoyable although the updated rap-version of “Witch Doctor” causes slight recoil. But with the ability to move to all the songs, the younger generation is sure to be captivated by it.

In addition to coming with an adorable TY Beanie Baby Alvin plush, the Limited Edition Gift Set DVD is loaded with all new bonus material. It includes: a couple of deleted scenes; music videos for “Witch Doctor” and “The Christmas Song (Christmas Don’t be Late);” “Behind the Scenes Munkumentary,” which plays as if the Chipmunks were real child actors with parents (series creators Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and Janice Karman); “The Dudes Behind the Munks” featurette contains amusing interviews with Long, Gubler and McCartney; “Get Munked” has choreographer Rosero McCoy teaching viewers the steps to “Witch Doctor;” “Chipmunks Live on Tour!” is a recording of a live performance coupled with interviews with attendees; and the “Chipmunk Funk Mixer” allows the viewer to mix the music for “How We Roll.” The set also includes a second-disc with a digital copy of the movie for portable media players.

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