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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Nowadays, revamping a classic cartoon is as conventional as it is predictable -- making a sequel even more so -- and with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, there’s no lack of the high-pitched raucousness that riddled its predecessor. After a freak accident hospitalizes Dave Seville (Jason Lee), the pop sensations Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) find themselves in the care of Dave’s nephew, Toby (Zachary Levi), a layabout gamer with no discernable aspirations. In an attempt to obtain a normal life, the Chipmunks return to the hallowed halls of high school -- battle jocks, try to fit in, and attempt to balance a home life with a social life. Naturally, this leads to strained relationships, dramatic crises -- well, as dramatic as a lightweight kid flick about singing critters can get -- and, inevitably, the learning of important life lessons. Director Betty Thomas keeps the action zipping along with plenty of wacky high school hijinks, but suspension of disbelief is necessary to tolerate some of the plot points. The meat of the story is pretty simple -- it has to be to capture the attention of a younger audience. The Chipmunks are tasked with saving the school’s music program by winning the 25,000-dollar prize in the battle of the bands competition known as Music Mania. This time around the new element is, of course, the introduction of the Chipettes -- Brittany (Christina Applegate), Eleanor (Amy Poehler), and Jeanette (Anna Faris), up-and-coming starlets who channel Beyonce in their performances. The girls are taken in by Ian Hawke (David Cross), former Chipmunks manager and all-around bad guy, who promises to make them famous and pits them against the Chipmunks in the battle of the bands competition. The computer animation keeps the film interesting, from the detail of the Chipmunks’ and Chipettes’ facial expressions to their movements, which add a certain amount of realism to the characters. The pint-sized trio are admittedly adorable, which serves as a much-needed reprieve between bouts of inept narrative and dated pop-culture one-liners like, “I’m the king of the world” and “It’s on like Donkey Kong,” but the “aww” moments grow old quickly and the film drags on, leaving the audience to wonder when it’s going to be over. At the end of the day, this movie is really for the kids who saw the first movie, enjoyed it, and want to experience the next chapter in the Chipmunk adventure.