Part four in the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” saga, subtitled “The Road Chip,” retains the philosophy of the previous three, which is that there’s no need to try very hard when your audience is composed of undiscerning children.
(Full disclosure: I missed the third installment, “Chipwrecked,” and thus cannot say with absolute certainty that it’s as lazy as the others. For all I know, it’s a witty, urbane social satire. I’m just extrapolating using the available data.)
This time, the computer-animated singing rodents believe that Dave (Jason Lee), their manager and adoptive father, is going to propose to his girlfriend, Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), while vacationing in Miami. Samantha is great, but her teenage son, Miles (Josh Green), is always mean to the Chipmunks when the adults aren’t looking, so they don’t want him for a stepbrother. Instead of telling Dave and/or Samantha that Miles is abusive, the Chipmunks decide they must simply prevent the marriage, which they think they can do by preventing the proposal … which they think they can do by stealing the ring.
Anyway, to make a long, unfunny story short, the Chipmunks have to get from L.A. to Miami to stop Dave from proposing to Samantha, and Miles goes with them because he just does, OK? They take a plane at first, with Alvin and Simon hiding in Miles’ jacket while Theodore goes to the cargo hold (there’s no reason for this), where he inadvertently lets all the animals out of their cages and throws the plane into chaos. A lot of people were traveling with their pet goats, porcupines, monkeys, etc., as is commonly done in real life.
An air marshal (Tony Hale) kicks the unaccompanied minor and his three talking chipmunks off the plane in Austin, then pursues them on land because he holds a grudge and the movie needs a villain. They pause in New Orleans long enough to sing “Uptown Funk.” The Chipmunks and Miles reconcile their differences and learn valuable lessons, sort of, eventually. Dave yells “ALLLLL-VIIIIN!” the requisite number of times (10,000).
The movie was directed by Walt Becker, whose previous terrible work includes “Wild Hogs” and “Old Dogs,” which despite their titles are not about talking animals. The screenplay is from the writer of lame family comedy “Tooth Fairy” (Randi Mayem Singer) and the writer of rancid rom-com “Made of Honor” and mediocre road-trip comedy “Due Date” (Adam Sztykiel). These people have hurt us before, is my point.
The plot depends on everyone always making the dumbest choices when presented with problems, while the humor depends on 1) fart noises, 2) Tony Hale being physically punished, and 3) the sound of contemporary pop songs being sung in high-pitched voices. (I continue to be fascinated by the practice of hiring famous actors, then speeding up their voices so they’re unrecognizable. This seems like a waste of money.) For adults, it’s relatively benign tedium. For kids, who cares? They’ll watch anything.
D+ (1 hr., 26 min.; )