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Le Panda de Cungfu, et Alvin et les Chipmunks - The online computery journal thingy of a turtle

Jun. 9th, 2008

07:48 pm - Le Panda de Cungfu, et Alvin et les Chipmunks

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Saw Kung Fu Panda today. Fun stuff! Impressive animation, and a better plot than the trailers make it look like. (Mainly, they leave out all the "I know, I don't belong here" "That's what I thought until now" stuff that gives the movie more depth. There's a little bit at the end after the credits, but be advised it's not comic; instead, it's charming and meaningful.

But what I want to talk about right now is "Alvin & the Chipmunks", the recent live-action-plus-CGI movie starring Jason Lee. Last night I watched it in French (with English subtitles) for the heck of it. It helped! (Mainly, whoever dubbed Jason Lee doesn't sound wrong for the part the way Lee himself does.) Reviews of this movie have been generally negative, but what the heck; there are parts of it that I just like.

Stuff I like:
The first scene is really charming. Imagine three chipmunks in a tree in the forest, storing away nuts for the winter... except they're singing "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter while doing it.
The scene where, right after Dave throws the chipmunks out for being creepy talking animals, they show him they can sing by crooning "Only You" in three-part harmony at the window, then breaking into "Funkytown". Also charming!
Y'know, some people hate the cartoony-but-realistic character design of the critters in movies like these, but it can be done well. The look of the chipmunks clangs oddly against their previous cel-animated design, but I kinda like it. Scooby Doo is another not-too-bad example. Garfield... eh. That thing looked like a puppet or something.
When Dave is buying groceries with the chipmunks in his cart, and he suddenly hears them singing the Christmas Song... over the store's sound system, despite only having written the song the day before and not having told anybody else about it. It's like that Strong Bad bit ("I will never ever ever ever ever write a song about Sibbie!")
The scene where the chipmunks strip naked on stage! I'm not making this up!

Stuff I don't like:
When the chipmunks first perform "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Time Is Here)", they and Dave do exactly the same banter, word-for-word, as on the original recording made by Ross Bagdasarian way back when. ("Ready, Theodore?" "O-kay!" "Ready, Simon?" "O-kay!" "Ready, Alvin? Alvin? AAAALVIIIIN!") It seems to be a tribute to the original, but it feels forced and unnatural.
The song "Witch Doctor" is performed in the movie only in hip-hop form. "Oo to the ee to the oo-ah-ah", blecch. Although I kinda like the little musical ornamentation on the last syllable of "walla-walla-bang-bang".
The script is pure Hollywood navelgazing, with David Cross as Jett Records honcho Ian, who wins the chipmunks' devotion with lots of presents (as opposed to ol' fuddy-duddy Dave who just got 'em savings bonds, gawww he's so laaaame) and then puts the chipmunks through a grueling coast-to-coast tour and gives them coffee shakes to try to keep them awake long enough to record their next stupid hip-hop single. What is this, the Jizzudy Gizzarland Story?
The "raisin" gag. Oh, and the fart scene.
But I think the absolute WORST scene is when Dave, frustrated at his failure as a songwriter, starts grabbing all his expensive electronic equipment (synthesizer, amps, etc.) and heaves it all out the front door onto the hard pavement outside, and then later fetches it in after it gets rained on, towels it all off, plugs it all in, and it still works fine. WHAT?!

Odd things about the French dub:
All the songs have been left in English except the Christmas song, which has been translated. ("Je voudrais un télescope / Moi, je veux un hula-hoop.")
When Alvin is twirling Dave's towel ring like a hula hoop and humming "Aloha Oe", in the French dub he's not humming anything; he's silent. No idea why.
In the scene where Alvin sucks helium and then talks in a really deep voice, in the French dub it sounds weird and wrong, like a movie alien or something. Sacre bleu, you pressed ze wrong button in ze mixeeng booth!

Comments:

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From:wbwolf
Date:June 9th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
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On a related note, I listened to the French dub of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, and it was interesting experience. I got the feeling that some of the jokes were written specifically for the French, rather than translations of the original riffs. The only voice that I found a bit jarring was the one given to Servo; he sounded more like a forced jester than a smooth chick magnet.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:June 10th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
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Oh right, the raisin joke! At least the toilet humor is infrequent enough to easily forget.
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From:deckardcanine
Date:June 10th, 2008 12:36 pm (UTC)
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Plus, I believe you already saw the raisin gag (N.P.I.) in the trailer. Easy enough to tune out the second time around.

I've had some temptation to see the movie. It's far junkier than my usual fare, but I'm a sucker for cute cartoon animals, and they never looked cuter on the show. A later trailer had shown me that not all the humor is crud. I can deal with hip-hop and constant high voices. And the first Scooby-Doo movie has its virtues. Nevertheless, my Netflix queue is long enough that I doubt I'll ever get to it.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:June 10th, 2008 02:33 pm (UTC)
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You can watch the best parts right now.

The chipmunks try to get Dave to let them back in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg5ukDnI6yo
They show Dave what they can do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1tXMDw0OMc
They sing the new song Dave's written for them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkwJK4T8UH0
Dave has had a bad day, and Alvin's in the... shower? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnYORzqMXPc

There used to be a clip of the "Bad Day" nut-gathering scene, but it seems to have been taken down. Phoo.
Oh wait, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU3hSZ2r9sM

Edited at 2008-06-10 06:55 pm (UTC)
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From:deckardcanine
Date:June 10th, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for distilling it for me. I hear what you mean about Lee's voice. And maybe it's just the medium transition, but the chipmunk voices have a strong electronic quality to them, like a cheap CD. Nevertheless, I'm glad I saw these parts.

Well, what I could of them. Two are taking forever to download on my computer.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:June 10th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
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I don't know whether the chipmunk voices were done by having the actors talk slowly and speeding them up, or just having them talk normally and pitch-shifting the vocals, but if they did the latter, that could explain it.
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From:deckardcanine
Date:June 10th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Okay, I was able to see the rest of the clips. One just had to be reloaded, and the other had an easier-to-download doppelganger.
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From:keeper1st
Date:June 11th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
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That last bit reminds me of what Brad Kay says near the beginning of this video I shot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC1jQqZBBog

"There ought to be a gas that will LOWER your voice an octave. We could call that stuff 'helium' and call the other stuff 'she-lium'."
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:June 11th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
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Heh!

Actually I think there is such a gas: xenon. It's a noble gas like helium, but it's heavier than air. It should work the opposite way from helium; problem is, since it's heavy, it would pool in the lungs instead of wafting out, and you might suffocate on it unless you're hanging upside-down.
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