Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011)

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked

Release Date: December 16, 2011 
Studio: 20th Century Fox 
Director: Mike Mitchell 
Screenwriter: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger 
Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate 
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy 

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011)

 Comedy. Starring Jason Lee, David Cross and the voices of Justin Long and Christina Applegate. Directed by Mike Mitchell. (PG. 87 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

The decision to set the third "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movie on a remote island seems like a potential gift for cynical parents - if nothing else because of the increased presence of predators.

But alas, these rodents - spoiler alert! - survive for a fourth incarnation, which no doubt will involve the introduction of a smaller, cuter cousin. (Based on the template set by the Muppets, we don't expect them to reach outer space until at least the fifth sequel.)

The name of the movie is "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked," so at least you know what you're getting into from the start. It's an uninspired and instantly forgettable film. But it completely succeeds by its own standards: an 87-minute rainy-day distraction that will probably make a zillion dollars.

The Chipmunks and their female counterparts the Chipettes return, and so does Dave (Jason Lee), who was limited to a short cameo in the second movie. A cruise goes awry, and all of the above end up shipwrecked on the Island of Dr. Cliche, complete with a delusional castaway and an active volcano. We're not sure which "Gilligan's Island" episode this movie borrows from the most. Call it a 98-way tie.

Still, the movie does have a certain calculated genius. The story is a jumbled mess - the plot of "The Smurfs" looks like "The Usual Suspects" by comparison - but there is something in this film for absolutely everyone. Let's go down the list:

Kids: Plenty of slapstick. When one of the Chipmunks gets hit in the testicles, he actually yells, "My acorns!"

Teens: Justification for bratty behavior. If anything, it seems as if the chipmunks are rewarded for defying authority figures.

Parents: Seemingly random and mostly dated pop culture nods. During an early hang-gliding scene, Alvin says, "I can see Russia from here!" Another chipmunk references the Dos Equis "most interesting man in the world" commercials.

Carnival Cruise Lines: An advertisement. With apologies to General Motors and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," the "Alvin"-Carnival tie-in is the most effective product placement we've seen this year.

The second dimension: For reasons that confound us, the third Chipmunk movie is not in 3-D.

Critics: An opportunity to write smug, vaguely self-congratulatory quips about the declining state of culture, while ignoring the fact that the 1980s cartoon incarnation of "Alvin" was even worse.

And with that, I'll come to the point in the bad-kid-movie review where I applaud the efforts of the trendy cult actor in a supporting role. David Cross returns as the record executive who tried to enslave the Chipmunks. Cross is the rare actor who not only survives bad movies but actually becomes funnier when fleeing from a fake-looking erupting volcano.

The Muppets (2011)

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets' former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. -- (C) Walt Disney

A Dangerous Method (2011)

Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) as his patient in A Dangerous Method. Jung's weapon is the method of his master, the renowned Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Both men fall under Sabina's spell.

Arthur Christmas (2011)

The 3D, CG-animated family comedy Arthur Christmas, an Aardman production for Sony Pictures Animation, at last reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child's question: 'So how does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?' The answer: Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. But at the heart of the film is a story with the ingredients of a Christmas classic - a family in a state of comic dysfunction and an unlikely hero, Arthur, with an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns. -- (C) Sony Pictures

Jack and Jill (2011)

Jack and Jill is a comedy focusing on Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler), a successful advertising executive in Los Angeles with a beautiful wife and kids, who dreads one event each year: the Thanksgiving visit of his identical twin sister Jill (also Adam Sandler). Jill's neediness and passive-aggressiveness is maddening to Jack, turning his normally tranquil life upside down. Katie Holmes plays Erin, Jack's wife.

Hugo (2011)

Throughout his extraordinary career, Academy Award-wining director Martin Scorsese has brought his unique vision and dazzling gifts to life in a series of unforgettable films. This holiday season the legendary storyteller invites you to join him on a thrilling journey to a magical world with his first-ever 3-D film, based on Brian Selznick's award-winning, imaginative New York Times best-seller, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret." Hugo is the astonishing adventure of a wily and resourceful boy whose quest to unlock a secret left to him by his father will transform Hugo and all those around him, and reveal a safe and loving place he can call home. 

Happy Feet Two (2011)

Happy Feet Two 2011Happy Feet Two returns audiences to the magnificent landscape of Antarctica in superb 3D. Mumble, The Master of Tap, has a problem because his tiny son, Erik, is choreo-phobic. Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters The Mighty Sven-a penguin who can fly! Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role model. But things get worse when the world is shaken by powerful forces. Erik learns of his father's "guts and grit" as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all ... More

PG, 1 hr. 39 min.
Animation, Kids & Family, Art House & International
Directed By: George Miller
Written By: George Miller
In Theaters: Nov 18, 2011 Wide
Warner Bros. Pictures

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)

In The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson), plus those they love, must deal with the chain of consequences brought on by a marriage, honeymoon, and the tumultuous birth of a child...which brings an unforeseen and shocking development for Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). -- (C) Summit Entertainment

PG-13, 1 hr. 57 min.
Romance, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer
In Theaters: Nov 18, 2011 Wide
Summit Entertainment