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!