In the third installment of Alvin and the Chipmunks’ modern incarnation, “Chip-Wrecked,” Dave (Jason Lee) takes his “Brady Bunch”-sized improbable family of squeaky-voiced ground squirrels on a cruise ship vacation.
As expected, the cruise ship provides a platform upon which Alvin causes mayhem that requires Dave to apologize to the ship’s captain, getting the obligatory “one last chance.”
Dave’s arch nemesis Ian, portrayed by David Cross, vows to watch the group constantly from his position as the ship’s mascot in an attempt to ruin Dave’s life.
Through another of Alvin’s misadventures, the six chipmunks wind up stranded on a tropical island. Dave and Ian are elsewhere on the island searching for the chipmunks, Ian still wearing his pelican suit. The separation allows Dave to consider his role in the lives of the chipmunks with Ian providing a kind of sounding board to let Dave sort through his feelings.
The chipmunks encounter a marooned, insane UPS pilot named Zoe played by Jenny Slate. Her insanity apparently caused by frequent bites of a local spider that causes changes in personality. Simon, after being bitten by one of the spiders, becomes an adventurous, self-confident alter-ego. Because Simon is no longer there to be the voice of reason for the chipmunks, Alvin is forced to take on the responsibility of their safety himself.
Zoe and most of the chipmunks indulge themselves in the adventures of the island leaving Alvin and Brittany to build shelters and worry about the island’s volcano which is growing more active by the minute. During their adventures, Simon’s alter ego Simone discovers a treasure that turns out to be the dark secret Zoe has been keeping. She has spent years on the island searching for the treasure and will do anything to have it.
Ultimately, the islands impending volcanic destruction forces as the characters resolve their differences and flee on a raft constructed under Alvin’s direction.
As a children’s movie, Chip-Wrecked does keep younger children entertained, though the live-action/animated hybrid format led my kids to fell a bit more tension during the volcano scenes than they would have in a fully animated feature. Afterward, a quick quiz of my four-year-old son showed that what plot there was went over his head. My daughter enjoyed the singing and dancing scenes more than anything else. Both said they enjoyed the movie, but not why.
There was little to keep an adult entertained, however. The few pop culture references were awkward and painful, rather than entertaining. There was no attempt to engage the adult members of the audience that did anything more than induce a few groans and any lessons that a parent may have been able to discuss with their children afterward were forgotten once the final scenes of Alvin and Dave returning to their troublemaking and controlling personalities, respectively.
A parent sentenced to watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked” needs to have a good imagination and retreat into that for the duration. There is not much to hold an adult’s attention in this movie.