Director: Walt Becker
Cast: Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney
Running Time: 92 minutes
Release Date: February 12th
The chipmunks return. Alvin, Simon, Theodore, the trio of destructive deviants, born of the Sciuridae family, and whose allegiance is to the Marmotini’s Tamiina subtribe. Allied to Dave, the man who can communicate with these critters, their collective quest for musical truth resumes in part four of Walt Becker’s tetralogy, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.
The man, Dave, now beyond the commercialism of penning jingles, has re-invented himself as a record producer, working with the successful chanteuse known simply as Ashley. His status in society having risen, this evolution means he must acquire an adequate familiar. Enter Samantha, a doctor of medicine, whose credentials are perpetually on display because she carries a stethoscope around with her everywhere, and for no decent reason. But yet, this reveals a commitment to her work. She must remain eternally on-call in order to earn her keep and ensure that her son Miles will enjoy his life, despite the emotional pains that may accompany his existence in a post-nuclear familial unit.
The Chipmunks meanwhile have tormented Dave for the final time, having decided to throw a decadent festival in the man’s honour, and abode. Determined to punish the trio, Dave forces them to endure the torment of a sport seldom associated with Chipmunks: Mini Golf. However, this plot device is not, as one would assume, a method of creating humour, but rather, a means of introducing the Chipmunks to the doctor and her son.
Yet, a plot cannot rely on mere activities alone. The audience demands conflict. Hence, to create such tensions, Becker rules that the son and the chipmunks must be at odds with one another. Miles despises the chipmunks, and the chipmunks reciprocate the sentiment, vowing to avenge Theodore, who was humiliated at the hands of this teenage boy.
However, as this battle commences, Dave, being a subtly virile man, formulates a plan to satiate his primal needs. Committed to Samantha, he decides they shall embark upon a journey to Miami and bear witness to the launch of Ashley’s new album, an untitled long-player at the time of its release. The chipmunks, upon hearing the news, become convinced that Dave shall to propose to Samantha, hence, they decide to intervene. Coercing Miles into the operation, their cruelty knows no limits as they fight to deprive him of a paternal figure in these, the final days of his youth.
Miles must suffer for humiliating Theodore.
Tracking Dave’s movements across the country, this quartet seize the attention of an air marshal, Sugg, whose life partner abandoned him, so sickened she was at his love for the musical output of the Chipmunks. A former devotee, in the present he is their enemy, awoken from a state of self-pity after the Chipmunks wreak havoc onboard a Boeing 737 plane, which he is patrolling. Releasing monkeys, chinchillas, dogs and parakeets on this metal tube shot through the sky in defiance of humankind’s limitations, the forced landing in Austin, Texas leads to the Chipmunks being placed on the federal no-fly list, and motivates Sugg to destroy them once and for all.
Travelling on foot, the quartet must evade this officer, whose attitude is a satire on the post 9-11 surveillance state. However, the Chipmunks and Miles are weighed down by a troupe of dancers who accompany them for the remainder of the tale. Gifted with improvisational skills, these dancers can execute intricately choreographed routines spontaneously whenever the Chipmunks break out in song, a move, which shall please disciples of Dogma 95, since the film follows the diegetic rule on a relatively consistent basis.
With a debt of gratitude owed to the scatological proclivities of John Waters, whose cameo pays homage to his early film Pink Flamingos and its theme of Coprohagia, this grotesque fourth installation in the franchise takes his perversion to new levels, and still manages to duck an R-Rating. It is incredible to see as ferociously anti-establishment a film achieve a G-Certificate, but perhaps this is due to the cuteness of these monsters.
Yet, beneath the malevolence there is a certainly a trace of tragedy. In spite of his criminality, Alvin becomes vaguely sympathetic as he endures an identity crisis. Confused in his own body, he feels himself no different to his murderous Sciuridae relatives: the eastern grey squirrel, a genocidal breed of rodent. Hence, the journey is a way to help him reaffirm his allegiance to the Marmotini tribe before the saga’s completion.
Deceitful in its overall composition, this complex tale of revenge is less concerned with a standard narrative; in fact, the plot is purely a red herring. The real point of focus is the senseless carnage wrought by the Chipmunks, in their need to fill time with mindless amusement, confirming my suspicion that Jean Luc Godard’s Bande a Part has indeed influenced this franchise as a whole. Such ideas shall not bring pleasure to children of any age. We are being provoked. Becker wants us to leave the theatres in disgust. He confronts us with the humourless depravity of the chipmunk that, it cannot be denied will always behave in a bestial manner.
Becker’s message is clear: Dave’s good intentions are flawed, cruel even. In this society, the chipmunk is self-destructive. It must be liberated for a greater good. Let the chipmunks roam free, Dave. Free them from their chains, the fetters that bind them to this environment, a realm in which they can never truly conform. Their allegiance is to the Marmotini tribe, Dave, these are not your children.
Dave, let the chipmunks roam free.