By Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune News Service
A Sarah Palin joke? A Charlie Sheen wisecrack? Is this a Chipmunks movie or a Letterman monologue?
As current as a Lady Gaga cover, if not quite as relevant, Alvin and the Chipmunks “Munk Up” for their third digitally animated turn on the big screen, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked,” a “Cast Away” take-off that parks the three chipmunks, their three Chipette counterparts and their human family on a deserted island.
Most adults would sooner gouge their ears out than sit through these kids’ films. But for captive parents in need of a reference point, “Chip-wrecked” is twice as funny at their last film, 2009’s “The Squeakquel.”
The return of Jason Lee as Dave Seville, the rodent wrangler who keeps our pop-singing ground squirrels in line, gives the picture a hint of the heart that made 2007’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks” work, at least for its intended audience.
This time, the squeakers are off on a cruise before performing at a big international music awards show. And Alvin being Alvin, mischief is made and puns are purloined.
But that’s nothing compared to the disaster Alvin creates on deck. A kite and hang-gliding accident leads to Chipmunks and Chipettes overboard, with Dave and their disgraced manager, Ian (David Cross), now a lowly costumed ship’s mascot, tumbling in after them.
They wash up on an island, the chipmunks in one pack, the humans in another. Each must find food, find ways to make fire and hope for rescue. Maybe they’ll even find each other.
Simon, “the responsible one,” suffers a spider bite that turns him into a French-accented adventurer who goes by the name “See-MONE.” Thus Alvin finds himself having to be “the responsible one.”
At least there’s always time for a song, from “Party Rock” and “Bad Romance” to The Go Go’s “Vacation” and the campfire favorite, “Kumbaya.”
The gags — Chipettes having a dance battle with cruise ship passengers from the Jersey Shore — and the jokes are pretty tame, the script relying a bit too heavily on “Oh no you DIDN’T” sass and kick-in-the-groin “Oh, my ACORNS” cracks aimed at 10-and-unders.
It’s about what you’d expect from a chipmunks movie directed by the fellow who handled “Surviving Christmas” and “Shrek Forever After.”
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-wrecked” (1½ stars)
A potentially irritating movie is made interesting by the presence of Jason Lee as a chipmunk herder. The influence of “Castaway” is likely lost on kids, but they will love the sassy humor. Starring David Cross, Jenny Slate and the squeaky voices of Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Jesse McCartney, Anna Faris and Amy Poehler.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Olympic, Stanwood, Metro, Pacific Place, Thorton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.