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ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS
Frenetic, bitty family adventure score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
When I was a boy, my sister used to try to irritate me by watching cartoons on tv that she knew I wouldn't like. She frequently succeeded. Occasionally I felt the need to pretend not to like something (she would never have watched anything had she known I actually liked it) and, when I was six, I was sometimes drawn away from reading the morning papers into Alvin and the Chipmunks, the adventures of Alvin, Simon and Theodore, the three loveable, shrill-voiced chipmunks. The series ended a long, long time ago, but in 2007 a new generation became exposed to the characters thanks to their first big-screen adventure.
The chipmunks were of course already famous before that tv series thanks to their high-pitched renditions of various songs over many years (which I'm sure I found irritating even when I was six) and that obviously play a part in the movie too, but there's still room for an original score, by Christopher Lennertz, who despite having now worked on a fair number of movies (including - and try to imagine having not one, but both of these on your filmography! - Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie) is probably still best-known for his music for video games.
One of the things about the game scores is that they do allow composers to really flex their muscles with large orchestras, and Lennertz shows his quality in that regard here, with some beautifully-orchestrated music which recalls the family scores of Bruce Broughton (Homeward Bound etc) and occasionally John Williams (there are slight hints of ET from time to time). There's a solid main theme for Dave, the chipmunks' human "dad", and a comically villanous one for their nemesis Ian, and these do their job well enough, though don't exactly linger in the memory; the score's real asset is its great energy.
This sometimes translates into very enjoyable adventure music, but that leads me to what stops it from being completely satisfying - the demands of the film mean the music consists of a large number of very short cues (the longer ones featured on this album seem to actually be many short ones pasted together) and the music is extremely bitty as a result. It's not all like it, but a large proportion of the 35-minute album is made up of the kind of mickey-mousing which on a technical level can't be faulted, but is so exhausting for the listener they may not return to it very often. This 1,000-unit release from La-La Land is nice enough though - and hopefully another solid stepping stone for Lennertz on to bigger and better things.