RoadChipcoverGrade: C+/B-
Entire family: Yes
2015, 92 min., Color
20th Century Fox
Rated PG for some mild rude humor and language
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: C-
Includes: DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

If you’re thinking of picking up Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, you probably already know what’s in store: a cutesy, formulaic blend of live-action and CGI animation that showcases the antics of squeaky-voiced Alvin, Theodore, and Simon.

So it makes no sense to review this film against classic road movies like National Lampoon’s Vacation, Thelma & Louise, and Little Miss Sunshine. It’s not in that league, nor does it try to be. It only tries to appeal to the same audience that was entertained by the original 2007 film about struggling songwriter David Seville (Jason Lee) and the singing chipmunks that brought him fame. And I will say this: The Road Chip strikes me as the best of the sequels thus far.

The opening high-energy production number mostly gives animators a chance to show what they can have these furry 3D animated guys do with a bunch of dancers and partiers, but once the main plot is established—David has met someone he plans to marry, and she has a teenage son they met earlier, someone who bullies them—the could-be stepbrothers hop in a car together to try to sabotage the proposal. Why? Because the Chipmunks think that Dave will drop them like three fuzzy hot potatoes after he’s married, or worse, that they’ll be sentenced to a lifetime with a new stepbrother who torments them.

RoadChipscreenThe minute they get inside that car together, you know the road trip will bring them together, and that eventually their dad and mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) will take another step on the road to their own happily ever after. It’s in the stars (or script). And in the Chipmunk movies there’s another formula: a single determined antagonist—like David Cross, in the first film—that pursues the Chipmunks. In The Road Chip it’s Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Veep) who has the honor of taking pratfalls for the cause. Hale plays an Air Marshal who goes full-bore Capt. Ahab in his pursuit, to sometimes genuinely comic effect. Meanwhile, as Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) try to work together with their new nemesis and potential stepbrother Miles (Josh Green), viewers from blended families or children of single parents fearing change can find some hope for their own futures.

In The Road Trip the Chipettes (voiced by Christina Applegate, Kaley Cuoco, and Anna Faris) appear as more successful performers than their male counterparts, but they’re really just window dressing. It’s all about potential stepbrothers this outing, and the mishaps that threaten to keep them from completing their mission.

The integration of animated characters into live action films has really come a long way since Pete’s Dragon, and The Road Trip is fun to watch just because of all the detail. For such an eye-feast, Blu-ray is the best. But make no mistake: the filmmakers are not pitching this at entire families, though it’s certainly suitable for all to watch. It’s aimed mostly at smaller children, who will give it two thumbs up. Older family members will say that in fairness it’s more like a C+ or B-, depending on your mood. And they’ll probably be more entertained than they’re willing to admit.

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