One of the things I really loved about being a child in the 80s was the number of cartoons where the characters sang. The 80’s were so musical! And catchy, earwormy songs. The king of these cartoons was Alvin and the Chipmunks – specifically The Chipmunk Adventure. I’m not talking about the live action hack. I’m talking about the 1987 animated feature. It was one of my favourite movies from my childhood. We had it recorded on a long play VHS recorded right after which ever Superman movie took place on the moon. I’ve seen the end of that movie an inappropriate number of times, but I remember nothing except the thing about the moon. And that after that terribleness was over, I would get to watch my movie!
As a grown up, I found a dvd copy of the movie for $5 and scooped it up immediately. It was one of the few kidcentric things I had in my house, but I was unsure if it would keep the attention of my niece and nephews when they came to visit and I needed some quiet aunty time. I was needlessly worried. The movie holds up. When they sat down to watch it, they were mesmerized the entire time. I believe my sister and I may even have been shushed at one point. Somehow, this movie came up at work this week and while talking about it, I realized I still know it basically from start to finish. I can sing every single song (including the possibly highly inappropriate Getting Lucky song the girls sing to a bunch of snakes).
So, what makes this movie so great? It’s not the terrible representation of adults and it’s certainly not the late eighties ethnic stereotyping. It’s the music and the highly ridiculous premise. A race around the world in hot air balloons to deliver dolls that are miniature versions of the people in the race? How is this not every child’s dream? It was mine. Every time I watched it, I figured out how I would have done it better. And then there’s the whole diamond smuggling ring portion of the movie. Perfection.
I loved the chipmunks long before this movie. Simon was my favourite of the boys and Eleanor was the best of the whole bunch. They both had some bigger picture thinking, even though they basically always went along with the cohorts. Eleanor did convince the girls to detour to save a penguin though. See, she’s awesome.
There’s also a big boys versus girls storyline – which is silly because the Chipmunks and Chipettes are essentially the exact same characters with different hair. And the girls get better clothes. But there’s a big dance/song battle about the gender conflict. So, who wins? It’s clearly the girls. They continually escape the bad guys (which the boys seem to do completely by accident). They save a penguin. They figure out the smuggling plot. They save the boys from tribal sacrifice (remember how I said there were some problems with racial stereotyping). Girls win. That is all.
Also, this movie taught me a little about fashion design. I still pull out the Pierre Cardin socks line from time to time when something of mine is ruined in a really ridiculous way. Very few people understand the reference.