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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

All About the Benjamins

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

There’s one, and only one reason why multiplexes across the United States will be flooded with prints of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, the unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary children’s film, and it can be summed up in one word: money.

Alvin and the Chipmunks, the first film in what 20th-Century Fox hopes will be a profitable, long-running franchise grossed more than $217 million in the United States two years ago and another $143 million abroad. With that kind of return on investment — the original film cost $60 million to produce — a sequel was guaranteed, and that’s exactly what moviegoers will get a chance to see over the Christmas holidays and beyond.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel picks up a short time after the end of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Alpha chipmunk and all-around extrovert Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), and his two brothers, the nerdy Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and the shy Theodore (Jesse McCartney), have hit the big-time, performing at sold-out concerts for their adoring fans while their surrogate parental figure, Dave (Jason Lee), tries to keep them out of harm’s way.

After an accident, partly caused by Alvin’s shenanigans, leaves Dave in traction in a Parisian hospital, Alvin and the chipmunks head back to Los Angeles and the care of Dave’s Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten).When the wheelchair-bound Aunt Jackie has a serious accident of her own, her video game-obsessed, unemployed grandson, Toby (Zachary Levi), steps in to help. To complicate matters, Dave has arranged for the chipmunks to attend high school.

In school, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore face the usual adjustment problems, including obnoxious jocks jealous of the attention Alvin and his brothers receive, but when Alvin proves deft with a football, he’s asked to join the football team as a wide receiver.

The school’s principal and longtime Chipmunks fan, Dr. Rubin (Wendie Malick), asks the group to perform at an upcoming battle of the bands to raise $25,000 for the school’s music program. And In a parallel, converging storyline, the self-dubbed Chipettes — Brittany (Christina Applegate), Eleanor (Amy Poehler), Jeanette (Anna Faris) — arrive in Los Angeles to meet the Chipmunks former manager and onetime nemesis, Ian Hawk (David Cross), so they can duplicate the Chipmunks’ musical success. Hawk sees the Chipettes as the perfect vehicle to exact revenge on the Chipmunks for his financial problems.

Directed by Betty Thomas (28 Days, Doctor Doolittle, The Brady Bunch Movie) and written by Jon Vitti and Jonathan Aibel, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is short on originality and long on pop-culture jokes and slapstick humor. And at less than 90 minutes, it’s also quickly forgettable, a perfect, if slightly expensive, way to entertain small children and parents eager nap.

The obligatory life lessons are all there, and generally inoffensive. Alvin has to learn personal and familial responsibility, as does Toby. Alvin also has to learn the perils of fame and, given the high-school backdrop, how to resist peer pressure. The jobless Toby learns parental responsibility, but oddly enough, never gets a job.

Fans of the Dave character (or more likely, Jason Lee) will be disappointed. He appears in the opening scene, a few pick-up shots to remind us he’s still stuck in a hospital, and returns for the anti-climactic battle of the bands. His role and his role’s function as the adult who needs to grow up have been transferred to Toby, but Levi (always watchable on TV’s Chuck) is a poor substitute. Levi often looks bored or indifferent in almost every scene. Still, families with children under 10 looking for a pleasant time-waster over the holidays could do worse than Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.