Tuesday, June 20, 2006

DVD Review: The Chipmunk Adventure

When I was a kid, one of my favorite cartoons was Alvin & The Chipmunks. The show (a 1980's revival of a show that first aired in the 1960's) revolved around a trio of singing chipmunks and their human adoptive father/manager. I always laughed as mischievous Alvin, intelligent Simon, and innocent Theodore made the life of their father David Seville just a little more rough. In 1987, The Chipmunks made the jump to the big screen with The Chipmunk Adventure. This little animated gem is finally available on DVD and is just as much fun as it was when it was released nearly 20 years ago.

The Chipmunk Adventure begins with Dave getting ready to go on a long business trip to Europe. Despite Alvin's protests, he leaves the Chipmunks behind with inept babysitter Miss Miller. After Dave leaves, Alvin and his brothers encounter their friends/rivals The Chippettes (who consist of Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor). Alvin and Brittany compete furiously against each other in an Around The World In 30 Days video game. This catches the attention of brother/sister crooks Claudia and Klaus. They want to smuggle $5 million worth of diamonds around the world but know of no one who won't draw suspicion. The two trick the kids into entering an around-the-world hot-air balloon race that's really a front for their smuggling operation.

Even though much has changed in the years since its release, The Chipmunk Adventure still holds up pretty well. At just 76 minutes, the movie moves briskly and doesn't get boring or slow. The animation is lively and colorful. The storyline is far more interesting than the recent slate of cookie-cutter animated films. The music is the real star of the film, however. The songs are well-done and memorable. Kids (and those with a little kid in us) will definitely sing along with songs like “The Girls Of Rock 'N' Roll,” “We're Off To See The World,” and “Diamond Dolls.”

A couple of things do make this movie seem a little dated. There are a couple of scenes that aren't all that politically correct. When Alvin and Simon encounter the natives who kidnapped Theodore, he talks to them in the way that Native Americans were stereotypically portrayed, using words like “wampum.” Then, when the Chippettes are captured in Egypt, they are taken to a young boy sultan who decides that he wants to make Brittany one of his wives in 10 years. This stuff is lightweight compared to the stereotypical portrayals found in other older animated films but it's unlikely that you'll see this type of stuff in the animated films coming out now.

The Chipmunk Adventure was digitally restored for its DVD debut and the result is quite nice. The picture is clear and surprisingly clean. In fact, the picture is so nice that things you wouldn't have noticed before show up clear as day. There are a couple of scenes where you can clearly see the separation of the cels used since this movie was made before the advent of digital 2D animation. The movie also contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track as well as a standard stereo track. The DVD only falters in the extras department. It contains only one special feature: a gallery of artwork from the film. I would have loved to seen music videos, karaoke versions of the songs, deleted scenes/songs, a making-of, clips from the TV show, or even just the trailer.

Overall, The Chipmunk Adventure is a great animated film that will delight young and old. It's a wonderful introduction to The Chipmunks for the kids of today and a nice trip down memory lane for those of us who grew up on Alvin & The Chipmunks. The extras may be slim but with a low MSRP and a very good transfer, this DVD is well worth picking up.

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