it's time to call Alvin, Simon, and Theodore.
In order to give America’s favorite high-pitched animated singing group a social life, three girlfriends were added to the '80s series Alvin and the Chipmunks, aptly named The Chipettes. Shortly following their introduction, the show continually evolved from simply Alvin and the Chipmunks to its final season incarnation in its eighth year on the air in 1990 as the show’s concept morphed once again and the title changed to The Chipmunks Go to the Movies. Spoofing everything Alvin style from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids to King Kong, our three beloved rodents offered child-friendly versions of Hollywood blockbusters, dropping objectionable material, shortening the running time to suit youthful attention spans and instead inserted their own blend of mischievous mayhem and musical numbers.
Following the release of a wonderful collection of vintage episodes of the original '80s series with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Alvinnn!!! Edition, Paramount Home Entertainment, transferred yet another in a series of excellent DVDs consisting of all things Alvin. Featuring a trio of three of the most popular movie-themed episodes, they’ve now served up Alvin and the Chipmunks Go to the Movies: Daytona Jones and the Pearl of Wisdom. Including not just the titular episode (modeled primarily after Raiders of the Lost Ark) but also Batmunk and Robomunk (Batman and Robocop, respectively), these highly energetic, fast-paced and funny takes on '80s blockbusters are a must for fans of not only the films themselves but especially Alvin, Simon, and Theodore.
While the animation appears as though it hasn’t been touched--now playable in Dolby Digital Surround-- the show sounds better than ever and additionally works with closed-caption-equipped televisions for the hearing impaired and, despite the lack of extra features, the full screen episodes can alternatively be played one at a time or all in a row so they flow continuously together for a mini 68-minute Alvin marathon.
Setting each episode up with a gag fitting to the tone and plotline with each as the trio introduces the “movies” directly to their audience, the writing of this final season is particularly a high point, talking up to the viewer rather than down despite their targeted age demographic. Alvin, who of course is up to his old tricks as Daytona opens, chides his brother with the warning, “Never rush a rescue, Simon-- especially a dramatic one,” before the show launches headfirst into a Raiders spoof so impressive that it’s a wonder Steven Spielberg didn’t invoke legal action.
While for my money, the first episode is the standout-- as an avid fan of all things Batman, I was particularly impressed by its follow-up Batmunk which refreshingly gave Simon a chance to shine as Brice Wayne who must go head to head with Alvin’s Jokester as they fight over who can create the best toys, as if playing on Jack Nicholson’s line from the film which asked, “Where does he get such wonderful toys?” With literally a roller-coaster ride for a finale and utilizing a great Top Gun musical classic cue, it’s Chipmunk gold and manages to keep us still smiling long into the entertaining but less successful Robomunk, which relies too much on the Chipettes and lackluster humor, feeling less in the spirit of the original show than the rest. Still, it’s a great DVD sure to bring back memories of childhood for Generations Y and X and I’m definitely staying tuned for Paramount’s next Chipmunk-themed DVD releases planned for the rest of the month.