The first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie did what it was supposed to do — it brought that trio of singing chipmunk brothers, Alvin, Simon and Theodore, into the 21st century and the age of computer-generated graphics with a minimum of surprises and a certain sweetness that almost made up for the flatulence jokes. With Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, though, almost everything to like from the first film — which was not much, but more than enough to make it an agreeable time-waster for your kids — is squeezed out by stuffing the film with new characters, new surprises, new plotlines until what was originally a nice, friendly big-screen machine designed to make cute animals into money loses a lot of the little luster it had as the clankier, clumsier second film clatters and clamors across the screen.
Jason Lee — who played the chipmunk's mentor and guardian Dave Seville in the first film — is barely on-screen in The Squeakquel, laid up by calamity while the boys are on-tour in France; guardianship of the chipmunks, and the moral lessons that come with it, pass to Zachary Levi's Toby. Toby is a little spacey and distracted (he's a video-game nut), so he's not exactly ready when the three mammals in his care not only have to deal with the blows and buffets of high school (you may ask why three six-inch talking chipmunks jump ahead to high school instead of a less dangerous environment, but if you start asking one logical question about The Squeakquel, so many of them soon pile up in your mind that your head explodes) but also with the arrival of three singing female chipmunks, the Chipettes, who are not only enrolled at the same school but also singers, managed by the nemesis of the first film, slimy music manager Ian Hart (David Cross).
A brief note about what may be the most enjoyable thing about The Squeakquel, which is not necessarily Cross' performance but, rather, the way Cross and his role comprise a heated, fairly obvious ballet of hate between the film's makers and himself. Cross apparently did not like being in the first film, and noted early on in production on The Squeakquel that while he was contractually obligated to be in the second film, he was not contractually obligated to be sober when his scenes were shot. This must have been seen as a challenge by the writers and director Betty Thomas, who continually humiliate and mock Cross and his character through a series of scenes that get worse and worse. It's like Cross was determined to sleepwalk through any sequel and the people making it decided to slap him awake, and watching that moviemaking misery play out on-screen gives The Squeakquel its only jolt of real life.
I mean, the Chipettes — voiced by Christine Applegate, Amy Pohler and Anna Faris — are kind of there, no matter how many times they sing "Single Ladies." And the chipmunks — voiced by Justin Long, Mathew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney — go through the same dynamic they went through the first film, where Alvin has to learn to step back, Simon has to learn to step up and Theodore has to learn to speak out. (I briefly contemplated how The Chipmunks actually correlate to Sonny, Michael and Fredo in The Godfather, but that a) is insane and b) should tell you how bored I was watching the sequel. …)
I was going to say it's hard to hate The Squeakquel, but actually, that's not right; it's more like it's futile to hate The Squeakquel. Your kids who liked the first film will be diverted, and they will have no clue they're watching a movie that exists solely because its predecessor made $350 million worldwide and exists to be the latest victory lap for a group of characters who've been making money for fifty years. The Chipmunks, in the first film, were the mathematical creations of a computer; watching The Squeakquel, the fun of the first film fades away as you realize that this time around, you could just as easily say that about the script.