Some movies just entrench themselves in your memory – for better or worse. For me, one of those particular flicks is the seemingly lost-to-time 1987 lark The Chipmunk Adventure – whether it's the barely plausible narrative, the glossy pop songs (which still hold up surprisingly well) or the loopy moments that still crack me up some 20 years later, I just flat out love The Chipmunk Adventure.
The plot is really just an excuse to get Alvin, Simon (voiced by Ross Bagdasarian Jr., who penned the screenplay) and Theodore (voiced by Janice Karman, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay) out of the house and away from Miss Miller (voiced by Dody Goodman), who's babysitting (chipmunk-sitting?) the precocious trio while guardian Dave Seville (Bagdasarian again) is away on business in Europe. After capturing the attention of bored yuppies Klaus (voiced by Anthony De Longis) and Claudia Furschtein (voiced by Susan Tyrrell), the boys, along with Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor (Karman for the hat trick), set off on a hot air balloon race around the world – depositing dolls in various exotic locales and embroiling themselves in international mystery.
The Chipmunk Adventure won't earn a place in the Thriller Hall of Fame any time soon and if anything, much of the goofy, twisted intrigue that makes up the plot is so much window dressing for Randy Edelman's magnificent soundtrack – the songs are what stuck with me long after the screen had darkened and viewing the film again after having long ago misplaced my VHS copy was a tremendous rush of nostalgia and surprise at how much of the film didn't suck now that I was a soulless, jaded twentysomething. "Diamond Dolls," "The Girls of Rock and Roll," "Mexican Holiday," the wildly inappropriate "Getting Lucky," a giddy rendition of "Wooly Bully" and, of course, the genuinely touching "My Mother," which still retains the power to induce a slight lump in the throat. They're great songs from top to bottom and really give The Chipmunk Adventure its snap – were it not for the musical interludes, this movie would be nigh unwatchable; I don't care how many smart-ass retorts Alvin comes up with, it's not enough to sustain even this film's bare-bones running time.
All in all, The Chipmunk Adventure, for those of you who dug it in the late Eighties, is just as much fun as you remember and yes, "Diamond Dolls" is still just as catchy 20 years later – it's the kind of film you'd like to hand down to your children, reminding them that it's possible to be entertained without all the manga-styled animation, zippy CG effects and brainless songs. They sure don't make 'em like this anymore. The DVD
Those 16x9 purists may howl, but nevertheless, it's oddly comforting to have The Chipmunk Adventure make its DVD debut in 1.33:1 fullscreen – the reviewer in me wishes it had bowed in its (likely) OAR of 1.85:1 but then, when I was seven years old, I didn't give a flip about aspect ratios. Clean and surprisingly vivid, given its age, The Chipmunk Adventure looks solid. The Audio:
While the visual presentation may disappoint some, don't get your hopes up for the Dolby Digital 5.1 track that's on board – aside from a few awkwardly placed directional effects, those insanely catchy, utterly Eighties pop songs don't have nearly the oomph one would like – what fun is it singing along to "Diamond Dolls" if that bass doesn't pound like it needs to? Nevertheless, those helium-voiced rodents are heard free of distortion or drop-out and I'm surprised that Paramount didn't see fit to include English subtitles – not all of us are fluent in Chipmunk, ya know. Dolby 2.0 stereo is also on hand, for those who yearn for a purer, more Eighties film experience. The Extras:
Here's where Paramount really lost me – as this somewhat forgotten children's film nears its 20th anniversary, could no one from the Bagdasarian family take five minutes and talk about the beloved Chipmunks only big-screen foray? I 'spose not – the only supplement here is several screens of original artwork (rough sketches, cels and promotional pieces) associated with the film. I won't keep my fingers crossed for the eventual double-dip (The Chipmunk Adventure: Little Round Butterball Edition!). Final Thoughts:
The Chipmunk Adventure is a mostly featureless, fullscreen (gasp!) DVD release but I'm positive the rush of nostalgia for this title will offset any concerns the digitally obsessed may harbor as to the worthiness of owning this disc. If you loved it, pick it up, give it a spin and get reacquainted. If you're wondering why all the fuss, then a rental will explain everything. Recommended.