(Author's Note: Please watch the above trailer... As much as I'm sorry for anyone who subjects themselves to such material, I am afraid it is rather necessary for my article below. Thank you.)
Just when we thought "The Squeakquel" was as bad as puns could get, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" crashed the party. And while we're on the topic, why do so many of these films have some of the most atrocious play-on-word names I've ever heard?! "Chipwrecked," "Squeakquel," "Gnomeo & Juliet," "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil."... They are not punny (funny puns), they are pupid (stupid puns, which, fittingly, is a stupid pun). Okay, back to "Chipwrecked," not that we should.
It is the third film in the current "Alvin and the Chipmunks" series that puts the CGI pipsqueaks in our live-action world. The first film got a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, while the aforementioned "Squeakqueal" somehow convinced 21% that is was worth seeing. Might this third entry bring that Tomatometer to single-digit territory, a place where few films have gone before? After seeing the above trailer, I am very afraid so.
How then, is this universally panned series... well, a series? Simple (and it's the same answer for any similar question), because it is making money, and lots of it. The two previous movies have made over $800,000,000 at the box-office alone. Who knows how much it could have accumulated in sales and rentals?! As much as we would want to blame the filmmakers and studio responsible, plenty of the fault belongs with the audiences. They would not have made a second (and now a third) if they weren't turning such a profit. Wait, who's fault is it? The creators or the consumers? I believe the answer is, "Both." They're the chicken who laid a rotten egg, but we're the suckers who ate it.
Not only has it brought sequels, it is has spawned other diluted "revivals" of existing IPs (e.g. "Yogi Bear," and most recently "The Smurfs"). I think of that scene in "Zombieland" where (*spoiler alert*) Bill Murray, who plays himself, is asked a final question. He is dying quickly from a shotgun wound to the chest after a bad accident. Little Rock asks, "So do you have any regrets?" Bill Murray thinks about it with an expression of pain and then responds, "'Garfield,' maybe." You see, Mr. Murray was the voice of that fat cat with an affinity for lasagna for two films! Was it "Garfield" that possibly started this CG-animal (that is based on an existing cartoon) in a live-action world?
"Chipwrecked" is directed by Mike Mitchell (the fact that they have to keep getting different directors for each entry should tell us something). Mitchell is a talented fellow. He was responsible for live-action sequences in "Spongebob Squarepants." He helmed the family super-hero flick "Sky High," which I've heard promising things about. Though he also did "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo"... Yeah, they're probably not going to be advertising that tidbit during the trailers. Can you imagine?
MOVIE TRAILER MAN: From the director of "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" comes a film for your children...
Yeah, not likely.
Mike Mitchell also directed "Shrek Forever After," a film I was not expecting to appreciate and actually really liked. For me it ended that series of diminishing returns on a high note and might even be my second favorite after the remarkable original. (I don't know, "Shrek 2" did have its moments...) It even has me excited for "Puss in Boots"! I bring this up for two reasons: Mitchell is capable of making solid entertainment and I am sorely disappointed that he has to add this to his resume. Secondly, some people rag on the "Shrek" series as a pop culture bloated mess (I'll give you "Shrek the Third' for that claim any day!). There is truth to this, but at least there is a whole lot of originality going on. Yes, Donkey leads a mash-up of karaoke at the end of the films. Such moments and the onslaught of references throughout will make but little sense in the decades to come. However, the films have plenty of their unique "Shrek"ness, not to mention plenty of references to fairy tales that have stood the test of time. My bias holds certain films as exceptions.
What about not judging a film until you actually see it for yourself? Admittedly, most of the films I am bashing I have never seen for myself. On the one hand, I ultimately cannot review them. On the other, there is a reason I have not seen these films. I've seen the trailers and that, quite honestly, was enough. Besides that, I try to do my research.
At the end of the above trailer for "Chipwrecked" you get six rodents performing Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" on top of a rock. It makes me long for the rapping penguins that I already ridiculed from the trailer for "Happy Feet Two" (do they really think spelling out the number is going to help any?).
Some will surely ask, "What's the big deal?" They'll say, "These films are not made for adults, they are made for the kids." Well, let me put it in terms of cuisine: Movies like this are junk food. Kids are going to eat it up, no doubt, but where is the nourishment? The happiness and magic does not last because it might not be there at all. Parents, stay home and save your money (and thus preventing another film like this from being made). Show your little ones some classic Walt Disney or some films from Studio Ghibli. These are films that not only entertain child and adult alike, they don't offend the senses of the latter. Refuse to settle for something that will merely keep your child occupied. Seek out works that will inspire. I believe in films as an art and an expressive means for storytelling. I believe such even for films that appeal to our little ones.
What Walt Disney and Hayao Miyazki and others (oftentimes the impressive folk at Pixar) have heretofore done with the medium is masterful. Those are tales that will churn the cogs of creativity in all who behold them. Expose the children to their likeness while they still bear malleable minds and impressionable imaginations. Many modern films only leave their heads open, much like leaving off the lid to a PlayDough canister... I'm sure you can finish that analogy for yourself. When the spirit behind such projects is a cold cash grab, our resourceful wits can sense it. There is a loss of soul for the film itself. I did not discover the likes of "My Neighbor Totoro" until I was in college, but it still swept me up. And oh, how "Spirited Away" lives up to its name.
I remember when I returned home from my mission, I didn't take long to watch "My Neighbor Totoro" again. (In fact, it may have been the last film I watched before I left on my misson.) This time however I was able two watch it with my niece who had been born since the time I left. We sat on the floor in front of the TV and watched Studio Ghibli's masterpiece. She was riveted to the screen. I even tried to convince her mother afterwards that she almost cried at a particularly sad part. I observed her observing this film and watched it myself. It captivated and inspired. She was just over two-years-old at the time. Last week I was at my sister's house in celebration of the same niece's birthday party. She's four now. I always insist on buying my family members films for birthdays and Christmas. I bought my niece "The Bee Movie" on a whim while shopping at F.Y.E. I've never seen "The Bee Movie," reviews were kind of split for it. It might make her and her folks laugh. Hopefully. It might have a compelling story. Please. However, as I'm finishing up this article that I started months ago I'm feeling a little hypocritical about that purchase. I should have gotten her "My Neighbor Totoro." Well, now I know what I'm getting her for Christmas.
I love films. I care about them and those who watch them. That's why I wrote this post.