For today's installment of Crackpot Movie Review, we've recruited the expertise of Professor Horus X. Lomax, Vice-Director of Cultural Preservation at the Svalbard Dross Vault, the sister organization of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Spitsbergen, Norway. Today's topic: the soul-rending arithmetic of the third Alvin and the Chipmunks film.
Up in the Jotunheimish northern climes, Dr. Lomax and his team assiduously work to preserve all of the world's pop cultural detritus in a bunker in the Soviet ghost city of Pyramiden. The SDV cherry-picks civilization's most execrable entertainment products in hopes of warning future generations about the dangers cultural artifacts — like say, Supertrain — can inflict on the human psyche.
Unlike their counterparts at the Seed Vault, the researchers at the Svalbard Dross Vault suffer from an unusually high mortality rate. The predominant (but not sole) cause of death involves a researcher suffering from the delusion that he or she is curating "the new Pandora's Box." Staggered the perceived enormity of their actions, the victims wander the abandoned streets of Pyramiden in fugue states until — like so many ambulating croquettes — they are consumed by neighborhood polar bears.
Professor Horus X. Lomax, Ph.D., Rataxes University: Prima facie, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked is not a difficult film to make. One must simply imprison a group of CG animators in a deep sea hyperbaric chamber, record their peals for mercy, and autotune the results until they resemble Lady Gaga singles. This squeaky incarceration is the most taxing part of the movie-making process. After that, the script can be scrawled on a truckstop serviette in a matter of minutes. Top it off by grabbing one or two Gen X icons — in this case Jason Lee and David Cross of Mr. Show fame — for a G-rated sinecure.
But no, the reality of cinema is considerably more complex. One mustn't rinse the bathwater off of the baby, unless that bathwater is secretly piping hot magma. But if that baby is a magma-powered grenade wearing a baby costume, one must most certainly throw that baby out with the bathmagma, unless there is an orphanage filled with babies next door. In sum, life is full of nuance, and so is this film.
Chip-Wrecked falls firmly in the lingua anthro model of talking animal flicks and — like almost every modern chatty critter narrative, Francis The Talking Mule notwithstanding — is an allusion to The Island of Dr. Moreau, what with its tropical trappings and logorrheic fauna. The plot? Sad-sack everyman David Seville (Lee) takes his pop-singing brood of Rodentia on a Carnival cruise. Once aboard this floating product placement, Dave, the Chipmunks, the Chipettes, and villainous record producer Ian Hawke (Cross, fulfilling his contractual obligation to make a third film) immediately fall off of it.
They soon wash up on a volcanic island. Nobody suffers from scurvy and none of the songs are as thrilling as "The Girls and Boys of Rock and Roll" (left) from 1987's The Chipmunk Adventure (a rollicking song that incidentally debuted in the way-less-popular 1986 T&A film Malibu Bikini Shop).
The film ends with this sapien-Tamias alliance weaving together a raft to escape from the erupting caldera. It was not unlike the way my post-docs at the Svalbard Dross Vault stitched their still-attached sinew and tendons into some sort of grotesque human catamaran and set themselves adrift in the Greenland Sea. This was shortly after I had asked them to count the number of syllables ever uttered by Brazilian hyper-talent Xuxa.
Sadly, the Chipmunks' escape bears the thick musk of futility. The first Alvin and the Chipmunks film came out in 2007. A chipmunk's lifespan maxes out at eight years. At best, Dave Seville has three more years with his pop-singing brood before he buries them in a diamond-encrusted shoebox. The Chipmunks are, uh, anthropomorphized pop: they live young, die young, and are immediately replaced by the next scatting marmots or nutria barbershop quartet to bedazzle the tots.
Chip-Wrecked may be pure ephemera, but here at the Svalbard Dross Vault, we plumb the sacred geometry of the world's shoddy crap. From our inquiry of total shit, knowledge blooms forth, like a greasy brown rainbow. Our expedition is vermicultural in nature, and our goals are noble. With regards to Chip-Wrecked, my colleagues and I — well, those who haven't seen the bleeding godhead of Aleister Crowley in repeated viewings of The Bare Wench Project (NSFW) — have cracked the equation for this film, which is on course to gross "a weak $23.5 million" this weekend. Considering that our civilization has reached a point where movies about deciduous forest creatures screaming Go-Go's songs have the pecuniary potential to eclipse the GDP of Micronesia, I'd say this formula carries such unspeakable might that it would tear Robert Oppenheimer's epiglottis asunder.
Indeed, in an attempt to warn future generations know exactly where our society was on December 18, 2011, here is the precise cinemagical formula for recreating Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked :
P: The Pop Acceptability Numeral (a.k.a. the number of #1 Top 40 hits to come out that fiscal year that do not contain veiled allusions to oral intercourse)
G: The George Lucas Manimal Success Factor (a.k.a. the lead anthropomorphic being's height in relation to Howard The Duck)
T: The probability that a Topo Gigio film is in production
π: Goes with everything
666: The number of the beast, as divined by warrior-scholar Bruce Dickinson
R: The film's narrative symmetry vis-à-vis Rock and Rule
m: The number of played-out internet memes in the last year (see: honey badger and double rainbow, both of which appear in Chip-Wrecked)
If the final number is anywhere between 0 and Mister Peabody's age, congratulations! You are now holding the fully written script to Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked. Now if you'll excuse me, my research assistant has broken every bone in his body while ecstatically fornicating with a cardboard lobby silhouette of Kull The Conqueror-era Kevin Sorbo.
Pyramiden photo by Anne-Sophie Redisch.