I didn’t much care for last December’s mixed-format big screen adaption of Alvin and the Chipmunks, for reasons that you can read about here. Naturally, to the detriment of my insurance premium for slack-jawedness, the movie then went on to gross $217 million domestically and another baffling $142 million overseas, where the critters were never very big in the first place. Now comes the inevitable sequel (slated for 2010) and slew of rib-poking, nostalgia-peddling DVD releases from the Chipmunks’ fairly deep canon.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Alvinnn!!! Edition collects 14 episodes of the animated series, which ran from 1983 to ’87 on the small screen in the States. The stories, of course, center around wishy-washy single guy Dave Seville, a would-be musician and jingle peddler, and the three talking, surf-happy — and, more importantly, singing — chipmunks that come into his life. Boisterous Alvin is the rascally ringleader of the group, always getting them into trouble; Simon is the bespectacled, rational one; and Theodore is the tubby bastard.
The titles of the episodes, in a couple instances, are more clever than the finished product. The basic template seems to be to crib from some of the routines of the Three Stooges — in which the tiny trio are thrust into an outlandish scenario or graced with an unlikely gift — and then connect a few basic plot points to ensure reliably chaotic, slapstick results. “The Curse of the Lontiki” kicks off the set; Alvin attempts to win a surfing contest, but is instead waylaid by an ancient curse. “Mr. Fabulous” finds Theodore thrust into a wrestling match. “Unidentified Flying Chipmunk” finds Alvin, having recently watched E.T., dressing Theodore (undeniably the “Curly” of the group) up as an alien. “Snow Job” finds Alvin trying to enter and win a celebrity ski contest, in order to impress a girl. “Maids in Japan,” meanwhile, finds the Chipmunks’ dabbling in local culture during a rocky tour of Japan. Other episodes include “A Horse of Course” and “New, Improved Simon.”
The second disc opens with “Every Chipmunk Tells a Story,” the series’ very own Rashomon tale, in which the story of Dave’s broken piano is recounted from three very different perspectives. “Romancing Miss Stone,” one of several episodes to rather wanly reference films or other TV programs, finds Alvin nursing an adolescent crush on a school teacher. “Chip Off the Old Tooth,” meanwhile, details one of those staple fears of adolescence — going to the dentist. Other episodes include “3 Alarm Fire,” “Alvin’s Oldest Fan,” “Whatever Happened to Dave Seville?” and “Cadet’s Regrets.” The vocal performances here are a bit grating, and the quality of the jokes and writing in general is fairly yawn-inducing. A few musical numbers provide brief respite, but that’s not enough to recommend this title.
Housed in a regular plastic Amray case, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Alvinnn!!! Edition is presented in 1.33:1 full screen, and comes with an English language Dolby digital mono soundtrack. There are no supplemental bonus features, which in a way is just as well, given the title’s failure as a slice of nostalgic pie. For young kids still thrilled by the new-to-them notion of its premise, this collection of cartoons may work as a diversionary time-killer, if not outright amusement. Beware, though, anyone old enough to open the case and pop the disc into a DVD player by themselves. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. D+ (Series) C+ (Disc)