The Plot at a Glance
Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein is one of two direct-to-video animated features in the Chipmunks franchise that were released right around the millennium. The other one, Meet the Wolfman, came out in 2000 and was the last conventionally-animated movie. (They released a puppet version in 2003 and then rebooted the franchise with CGI in 2007.)
I think this context is important because the Chipmunks are one of those franchises that has spanned multiple generations, so aging Millennials like myself will remember our own specific version and compare it to the stuff that's being released today. Whenever you do that, you have a tendency to sneer at the modern stuff and act like a dick about it. AaTC Meet Frankenstein is every bit the same production style as the '80s incarnation that my generation loved even though it was released almost a decade after. So if you need a kick in the ass to remind you what you actually grew up with, well, here it is.
As for the plot: The Chipmunks are hired to perform at an amusement park in Hollywood, where a ton of actors and producers are getting ready for the premiere of a new action movie. Through happenstance and idiocy, a mad scientist is hired to work as one of the park staff, and he creates a Frankenstein's monster. Then the Chipmunks accidentally get locked in the park after hours and chaos / attempted comedy ensues.
Also, Frankstein's monster is a good guy and they learn a lesson about being misunderstood.
I found this movie insufferable. And no, it's not because of the voices. I mean, the voices didn't help, trust me - but that's not where the real problem lies.
AatC Meet Frankenstein is a movie set in Hollywood and featuring a lot of Hollywood types, so naturally, the filmmakers thought there would be an endless well of comedy in the tropes and mannerisms associated with that industry. And while they're not wrong - there are funny movies out there about the superficiality and dumb politics of commercial filmmaking - I think they forgot that they were making a movie about singing chipmunks.
The Chipmunks formula is not that difficult. Take whatever music styles are popular now, have your squeaky-voiced heroes sing every ten minutes or so, and then have Alvin act like an asshole to everybody in between. And what the hell, maybe throw in a lesson about manners or something. That's a very broad template to work from and should be pretty tough to screw up.
Yet AatCMF finds a way: it keeps trying to be an incisive commentary. Every other minute there's some joke about a struggling actor or a snotty producer or business meetings or whateverthefuck, and my God, that shit is not funny. Look, guys, I'm all for jokes that the adults will like, too, but Hollywood is not the kind of thing you can satirize with a PG rating. If you want to make your angry comedy, fine, but just leave it out of this one. My kids are trying to enjoy the squeaky singing and they're getting bored watching your lawyer jokes.
Come to think of it, the singing is somehow the worst I've ever heard. I won't go so far as to say that I "like" the rest of the Chipmunks discography, but I at least understand it. The stuff in this movie? It's dated even for the time. There's an '80s-throwback hip-hop sequence, for Christ's sake. In a movie made in 1999. That's embarrassing no matter who you are.
There are some parts that are borderline amusing. There's a prolonged sequence toward the end where the mad scientist gives Alvin a formula that turns him into an Animaniacs-styled lunatic, and he starts bouncing around wreaking havoc. That whole scene is full of tired jokes, sure, but it at least has some energy and I can see kids enjoying that. Why wasn't there more of that in the movie?
I will say one thing in favor of watching this one, which I mentioned earlier. If you're one of those types who rolled your eyes at the 2007 reboot and got all cranky-pants about seeing those posters where Alvin was dressed up like an urban stereotype, then I do recommend you watch this movie. Hopefully it will convince you that this kind of things has always been around. The problem isn't the Chipmunks. It's just that now you're old enough to see the franchise for what it is.
My Score: 1 / 5
I was not fond of this movie.
How Did Lulabelle (2 years old) React?
She kinda liked some of the music and she laughed when Alvin was tearing shit up at the end, but the rest of the time she was bored and wandered off to play with her toys and books. Good for her.
How Did Sonja (6 months old) React?
She slept the whole time.
How Did Stephanie (My Wife) React?
She was on her laptop and/or wrangling Lulabelle. I don't think she particularly cared for it.
Any Useful Ethical, Educational, or Thematic Content?
Mildly. The big moral of the story is that you shouldn't judge people based on their appearance, as the monster proves to be a friendly guy who just needs some love and direction to succeed.
Trigger Warnings / Egregious Offenses?
Well, they're the Chipmunks, so you've got the squeaky voices. And this one has some rotten music in it. And I already mentioned that the jokes aren't too great. You know what, let's just say that most of the movie is a trigger warning.
How Likely Are You to Be Annoyed?
How Likely Are You to Cry In Front of Your Kids?
I can't give extreme scores here, so I'll go with 10%.
Final Weighted Score: 2 / 5
If I'm being fair, there is some merit here and I can honestly see some kids enjoying parts of this movie. I just don't see the point - there's half a dozen other Chipmunks movies out there, and no matter how bad the Squeakquel is, it has to be better than this. But even if you insist on watching "your" Chipmunks, you have a better option: AatC Meet the Wolfman. It's another 2D feature and it's waaaaaaay more tolerable than this one.