* (out of four)
We can officially close the book on Charlie Sheen's tumultuous 2011 now that Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), selfishly stealing a mango while stranded on a tropical island with the other chipmunks and Chipettes, has exclaimed, "Winning!"
This franchise, on the other hand, remains a biennial irritant, slapped together out of helium-voiced takes on pop songs (Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" becomes "Whip My Tail," blecch) and the happy bank accounts of actors wanting to go on vacation for a couple months. That means Jason Lee (as Dave) and David Cross (as fallen record exec Ian), the latter wearing a full-body pelican suit, trudging around in search of those pesky critters with unidentifiable celeb voices (like Amy Poehler and Christina Applegate). The chipmunks' disappearance occurs when they fall off a cruise ship after Alvin fashions a hang-glider out of a kite for which he trades an overweight kid a donut.
After two of these movies, it's hard to get mad about this trash anymore. Just sad. Of course Dave has hot gravy spilled in his lap. Of course the chipmunks belt out not one but two Lady Gaga songs and break into "Kumbaya" around the fire. That's just part of the experience. But Alvin saying a woman can follow him on Twitter, and a subplot in which uptight Simon transforms into a cooler, French-accented version of himself a la Stefan Urquelle, that's when you envision tiny nails being driven into your skull. By the time the gang performs a rendition of "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," I wanted to reply, "Well, you don't have to rub it in."
* (out of four)