Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Being aimed at children isn’t a valid excuse for a movie to be simple-minded and illogical. You know that, right? You know that that’s what lazy filmmakers fall back on, don’t you? “Well, so what if it doesn’t make any sense. It’s for kids!” NO. That is not acceptable. Countless others have made kids’ movies that were smart and engaging, including several in 2009 alone. It can be done.

What’s especially disappointing about “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” (beyond the fact that it exists at all) is that its writers, Jon Vitti, Jonathan Aibel, and Glenn Berger, have been involved in some of of those high-quality efforts themselves. Their credits include “Monsters vs Aliens,” “Kung Fu Panda,” and TV’s “King of the Hill” and “The Simpsons.” You can imagine the characters in those stories making fun of a lame children’s film like this. And yet here are their creators, making one.

To the extent that the film has a story, the story begins in Paris, where the computer-animated Chipmunks are performing for a sold-out crowd of screaming fans. Dave (Jason Lee), their caretaker and manager, is critically injured backstage in an Alvin-related accident, so his Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten) offers to take care of the rodents while he recuperates. But then Aunt Jackie is herself critically injured, just as hilariously, leaving the Chipmunks in the care of her idiot grandson Toby (Zachary Levi), who only wants to play video games.

I assume all of this is the result of Jason Lee not wanting to be in the movie for more than a few minutes. As a character, Toby doesn’t bring anything to the table that Dave didn’t already have. The film barely even explores the possibilities inherent in Toby being a lousy babysitter. And then it’s decided that, even though Dave is in a hospital in France, the Chipmunks will start attending public school. Because hey, why not? It’s what all superstar musical sensations do, especially when they are woodland creatures.

The girls at school adore the Chipmunks for the same reason they adore the Jonas Brothers: they are cute and cuddly and sexually nonthreatening. And the boys hate the Chipmunks for the same reason they hate the Jonas Brothers: because the girls like them. One of the boys, a jock, says to his friend, “Somebody’s gonna have to knock these guys down to size.” And his friend says, “That should be easy. They’re only eight inches tall.” KAZAAM! OH SNAP!

Alvin (voice of Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) don’t like school AT ALL, let me tell you. But then the principal, Dr. Rubin (Wendie Malick), a huge Chipmunks fan, asks them to represent the school at a district-wide music competition, and the Chipmunks are glad to help out. Looks like school will be OK after all!

The next morning, the three of them are hiding in the toilet tank so that Toby won’t make them go to school. In the break between scenes, the movie forgot what it had just said.

Also, remember when the jocks picked on the Chipmunks? One of them, whose name is Ryan (Kevin G. Schmidt), now sees that Alvin (voice of Justin Long) has some athletic prowess (what??), and suddenly he wants to be his best friend and get him on the football team. Well, sure. Why not? But will Alvin let his new friends in the sports department turn him against his brothers? Will the Big Game occur on the same night as the Big Music Competition? I am pained by the realization that this is the same plot as “High School Musical,” but more pained to realize that I even know that.

Meanwhile, there are Chipettes. Yes, a trio of lady chipmunks who also sing and dance, their powers not explained but probably the result of a satanic pact. Their voices are provided by Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, and Christina Applegate, three very funny actresses who are completely wasting their time here. (Once a voice is digitally manipulated to sound like a Chipmunk, it is unrecognizable and could literally be anyone. If there was ever a reason not to bother casting “name” actors, this is it.) The Chipettes find Ian (David Cross), the slimy music-industry executive who was the villain in the first “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie, and get him to represent their careers. His strategy is to enroll them at the same high school as the Chipmunks and have the girls beat the boys for the chance to represent the school at the competition. Then the Chipmunks, Ian’s enemies, will be shamed, and his new proteges will reign supreme!

To the extent that this film was directed at all, it was directed by Betty Thomas, whose past films make her the perfect choice. She dealt with talking animals in “Doctor Dolittle,” TV adaptations in “The Brady Bunch Movie” and “I Spy,” and famous rodents in “Howard Stern’s Private Parts.” She and her writers have no interest in making “Squeakquel” funny or clever or tolerable. They’re not even interested in telling a cohesive story, one that follows a logical progression of events. Characters’ motivations and personalities change depending on the needs of the current scene. But I guess all a movie really needs is for one of the Chipmunks to crawl under the blankets with Toby and then nearly suffocate when Toby farts. Hilarity!

D (1 hr., 28 min.; PG, silly violence, general mayhem.)