This has been the Summer of disappointment for studios at the box office and hopefully, that won't lead into the Winter of discontent. It's easy to see why it's been a bad Summer (-22%) and while revenue is up YTD slightly, how much of that is due to a rise in ticket prices? When the theaters are full of superhero movies and sequels, eventually audiences want to see something fresh. Studios think the movie theater is a "TINA" situation (there is no alternative),but it's increasingly easy for many to save the theater for only what they're most excited about and leave the "maybes" for at home.
As for children's movies, this year brought us "Ice Age 5". Five. Scrat is so over chasing the acorn at this point. Last Winter's "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip" (har har) is the fourth film in the series, which is remarkable for a series that I didn't think would make it to number two. Still, it goes to show the apparent philosophy that it's easier to milk a once-successful movie endlessly as sequels until audiences get tired of them rather than come up with something new. Endless superhero movies are like that cute game on "The Price is Right", where the mountain climber heads up the mountain - bet wrong enough and he goes over the side. Eventually, a studio's going to take the superhero theme one or two movies too far and wind up with irritated audiences and unhappy shareholders.
With a $90M budget (it doesn't feel like that long ago that people were freaking out over James Cameron spending $200M on "Titanic" or more on "Avatar". Now people don't even blink at $90M to an "Alvin and the Chipmunks" sequel), "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip" did okay in theaters, but with overseas sales and DVDs, will likely lead to "Alvin 5: The Fast and the Furry-ous" (Fox, if you want to use that, be my guest.) This time around, Dave (Jason Lee, looking thrilled to be in some kind of a franchise, even this one) is thought to be considering marriage to his girlfriend, Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), which leads the chipmunks - Alvin (voice of Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) head on the road to stop it, because they have gotten it into their small chipmunk heads that marriage means that there's going to be no more room for them. Plus, they're not thrilled with a potential new step brother who's bitter (Josh Green.) Jennifer Coolidge also essentially revisits her "Two Broke Girls" character for no apparent reason or need.
Not surprisingly, the movie is a collection of fart jokes and bathroom humor as the madcap trip inevitably results in a kooky chase by a cartoonish agent (in this case, played by Tony Hale, ridiculous performance but no one can accuse Hale of phoning it in.) Inevitably it all leads to the happy ending and a few messages, followed by probably forgetting you saw it in the next day. Is it the worst thing ever? No, it's just a predictable, vanilla movie that serves as a distraction for kids for 90 minutes or so. People have to go back a couple of decades - there were so many terrific kids shows and movies ("Duck Tales" and other Saturday morning shows had more of a plot than some kids movies today.) It's too bad that family entertainment has turned so ADD in this day-and-age, as smart writing and enjoyable plots have largely been replaced by obnoxiousness or bland "product".
Additionally, because coming up with new ideas is apparently increasingly a "no no" in Hollywood, in a move that will likely upset many, "The Secret of NIMH" be getting the "live action/animation" treatment, written by one of the "Ice Age" writers and produced by one of the writers of three of the four live-action "Transformers" films.
Audio/Video: Bright, poppy 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation from Fox. While certainly not something that will be reached for as a demo by any means, the picture remains crisp and clean throughout much of the running time, with bright colors and only a few minor artifacts. Sound is fine, but as one would expect from the material, it's not exactly going to be demanding on anyone's sound system - minimal surround use, but satisfactory audio quality.
Extras:: Not a whole lot - a brief set of clips from the other movies (not that you exactly had to have seen the others to understand this one...), music selection, a couple of featurettes (ads, really) about filming in Georgia and trailers.
Final Thoughts: Forgettable fluff, "Road Chip" did well enough that I'm sure this franchise will continue to be milked until audiences start rejecting it at the box office. The DVD offers perfectly fine audio/video quality, but minimal extras. Unless you're a fan of the other films and must see where the "story" goes, skip it -