Nothing beats a surreptitious rant dressed up like a film review. This time around, I decided to use reviews of Oddball And The Penguins and Alvin And The Poxing Chipmunks: The Road Chip to highlight my profound views on children’s entertainment. See if you can spot the subtle commentary in the following two Sunday Independent reviews. Sigh…
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip / Cert: G
THERE are certain inevitabilities in life: Taxes will rise; age will impose itself; and animated creatures in big-budget CGI kids’ films will sooner or later start rapping and gyrating along to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s I Like Big Butts.
The fourth instalment in the bafflingly successful Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise – hilariously entitled The Road Chip – dares not toy with the natural order of things and serves up exactly what you’d expect from a film designed to prey on the wallets of addled parents. Consistency is a virtue, some say. Though perhaps not when something is consistently awful.
Jason Lee looks as tired as the brand itself as he returns for a fourth slog as Dave, the human guardian/big brother/father figure to the three squeaky voiced rodents.
Despite spending most of his days addressing empty spaces where blobs of colour will soon be edited into existence, he has managed to find love in the form of the lovely Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and marriage could be on the cards. While fine with Samantha herself, Alvin, Simon and Theodore are loathe to admit her bully son Miles (Josh Green) into their lives. The feeling is mutual, so the four set out on a roadtrip to Miami to intercept Dave and Samantha and stop the proposal going ahead.
Director Walt Becker (who gave us 2011’s universally panned Zookeeper) believes kids’ entertainment needs are best catered for by primary coloured squibs bouncing inanely to trite pop songs for 90 minutes. Frankly, your children deserve better.
Oddball And The Penguins
SWAMPY (Shane Jacobson) is a chicken farmer in Warrnambool, Victoria who is as Australian as a schooner of VB. His daughter Emily (Sarah Snook) is a wildlife ranger on nearby Middle Island, a sanctuary for endangered Little Penguins. The species has been hammered by local foxes and if the endemic population slips below 10, funding will be cut and the reserve – once under the care of Swampy’s late wife – will be given up for development. That in turn could lead to Swampy losing both Emily and beloved his granddaughter to a move overseas.
Salvation arrives in the form of Swampy’s beautiful but naughty sheepdog, Oddball. While showing little talent for protecting the farm, he does emerge as an excellent island guardian for the penguin population. Foxes, however, are not the only threat to the prime real estate.
Ask yourself this: Would you prefer your little ones watch an adventure with a strong environmental message, or just noisy, pacifying bubblegum? If the former, then Oddball and the Penguins is just the ticket.
High on charm, spirit, excitement and live-animal magic, Stuart McDonald’s real-life tale is a breath of fresh air in a world of gloopy, sterile CGI mulch animated by people who’ve never set foot outdoors. Sure, its rhythm is slipshod and the performances patchy, but this is hale and hearty fare that your kids may one day thank you for.
First published in the Sunday Independent