A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip is similar to the previous movies and features many of the same kinds of jokes, pop culture references, pop/hip-hop musical numbers, and physical comedy. There's less chipmunk romance in this one, since the Chipettes are only in a few scenes, but Dave does have a girlfriend he embraces and very briefly kisses. There's a little bit of comical violence, mostly involving an air marshal who gets beaten up in a bar brawl and hit in the groin and has toothpicks stuck in his face. The marshal also drinks moonshine in New Orleans. Expect some rude/insult language and a few suggestive song lyrics (ex. "I like big butts"). The message, as always, is about the importance of family and teamwork, but kids may be too busy laughing at the scatological jokes and the silly gags to notice.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP, Dave (Jason Lee) is busy with his star client Ashley's (Bella Thorne) upcoming record launch in Miami and wants to limit Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore's (Jesse McCartney) performance schedule so they can have a more stable adolescence. Dave plans to take his new girlfriend, heart surgeon Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) with him to Miami, and when the brothers find a diamond ring in Dave's luggage, they assume he's going to propose. The Chipmunks are less than thrilled with the idea of Samantha's cruel son, Miles (Josh Green), as their step-brother, and the feeling is mutual enough that they're able to enlist him to help them stop the proposal. The group attempts to fly to Miami, but chaos ensues on the plane, an angry air marshal (Tony Hale) puts the Chipmunks on the no-fly list, and the gang has to take an obstacle-filled cross-country road trip instead.
Is it any good?
It's easy to ask yourself why these forgettable Chipmunk movies keep happening, but the answer is simple: money. The first two made more than $210 million at the box office, and the third one still managed to break $130 million. So this fourth installment will undoubtedly be profitable, too, even if it's far from the kind of film families want to see over and over again. The one big improvement this time around is that the Chipettes aren't in it as much, so there's no cringe-inducing romantic tension except for a couple of throwaway lines when the Chipmunks are all together. The fact that the Chipettes are bigger artists with more fame (they're the ones judging American Idol) is a clever way to have them in the story, but in a tangential way.
What continues to baffle is that, after all these years, poor Dave still trusts his three Chipmunks when they've repeatedly broken his trust and acted irresponsibly. And it's still really odd that well-known actors would voice parts in which their voices are unrecognizable. Why not just leave it to professional voice actors to voice the Chipmunks if no one can tell who's who? (Perhaps "money" is the answer to that question, too?) There are a couple of funny moments, usually courtesy of Hale's misguided air marshal, who becomes obsessed with punishing the Chipmunks for ruining his stellar career. But Hale, a multiple award winner for his role on Veep, is far too talented to be wasting a credit on this forgettable franchise fare. Otherwise, the most redeeming aspect of these movies is the undeniable, if familiar, messages about families looking many different ways, the strength of brotherhood, and the unconditional love between parent and child.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip's depiction of families. How does the movie portray adoptive and single-parent families? How does that compare to how they're shown in other movies/TV shows?
What consequences do the Chipmunks face for their behavior? What do they learn about jumping to conclusions? How could Dave have handled their communication issues differently?
Do you think there should be another Alvin and the Chipmunks movie? Do you prefer these live-action/CGI versions or the completely animated cartoons?
Talk about all of the products you saw in the movie -- and all of the tie-in toys, etc. available in real life. Does having a lot of "stuff" associated with a movie make you want to buy it? How can kids learn to understand when something is an ad?
- In theaters: December 18, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: March 15, 2016
- Cast: Kaley Cuoco, Bella Thorne, Anna Faris, Jason Lee
- Director: Walt Becker
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild rude humor
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