NFK: Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman
Nathanael Smith | On 01, Nov 2015Reading time: 4 mins
If VODzilla.co ever gets taken to court for mistreatment of its writers, then NFK will be the case for the prosecution. What is NFK? We get someone of entirely the wrong demographic to work through the films aimed at the youngest of audiences in the vast and candy-coloured realm of Netflix’s kids’ section. The result is a 25-year-old sitting down one afternoon before Halloween to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet The Wolfman…
Before the CGI critters made their way onto cinema screens with puntastic titles like “The Squeakquel” and “Chipwrecked” (“The Road Chip” is out later this year, seriously), Alvin and the Chipmunks had a couple of feature animations, presumably inspired by the old Abbott and Costello films, where they met Frankenstein and the Wolfman – references that will be warmly received by four-year-old Lon Chaney fans.
In this story, the three singing rodents are suspicious of their neighbour, one Mr. Talbot. Meanwhile, Alvin’s mania for monsters is causing trouble at school and Theodore gets bitten by a mysterious creature, which turns him mean and hairy but helps him with his performance in the primary-school production of Jekyll and Hyde.
Like the Care Bears, Alvin and the Chipmunks is one of those kids’ entertainment brands that is anathema to adults but has somehow stuck around for decades after they started out as an animated band, Gorillaz-style. Many people will remember the theme tune to the TV series, even if they can’t recall a single episode. So there must be something that appeals to children in every new generation that encounters these helium-voiced critters, otherwise why are they still around?
Go back to the franchise as an adult, however, and you’ll realise that enough is enough. You may wish to start petitions, campaigning for a worldwide ban on all things Chipmunk related. You may want to find the studio responsible and burn it down. (We don’t recommend that you do this – Ed.)
The first and most persistently awful thing about the film is the voices. Someone, at one point, must have realised that the way to cater to young audiences is to play the voice actors at double speed, so all dialogue happens at the kind of pitch that could realistically make your ears bleed. But why? What justification is there for such aural torture? Even something like In The Night Garden – hardly high art – has the soothing tones of Derek Jacobi to narrate it, proving that children don’t need the dog-whistle-pitched dialogue to keep them entertained. This painful, grating noise doesn’t really serve any purpose beyond making its audience stupider. When they break out into songs (seemingly a contractual obligation given their origins as a band), the misery is multiplied tenfold, the low point in the giant trough being “Munks on a Mission”, which will make you wonder if you ever liked music.
Sadly, the rest of the film is a similar cacophony of incompetence. The Wolfman plot, which goes surprisingly in-depth on werewolf lore for a film aimed at people barely able to read, takes ages before anything is established, as the set-up is more interested in Alvin’s love of monster movies and Theodore getting bullied at school. (Side-note: The baffling answer to bullying, according to the headmistress at the chipmunks’ school, is that Theodore has to sort out his own problems.) As a result, each one of the 74 minutes feels fatally stretched out, daring the viewer to succumb to an existential abyss where nothing has any meaning any more.
There are other strange choices, beyond making a film about werewolves for pre-schoolers, such as jokes about Luvvies and the moment when Dave sees the school blow up in a green mushroom cloud and is more concerned about getting told off by the headmistress. Then there is the subplot about putting on the production of Jekyll and Hyde (at primary school, remember) where you discover that hell on earth is watching chipmunks perform scenes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic for what feels like hours.
The animation is terrible, the songs are distilled sadness and we don’t even want to think for too long about how weird their relationship with the Chippettes is. It’d be nice to think that children are a little bit more discerning than this film would believe they are, and perhaps none of them would like it. The franchise’s enduring success suggests not, however, so it should perhaps be down to the parents to put something better on. If it’s Halloween and your kids want to watch a scary animation, flee from this as if you were running from an actual werewolf. Watch Coraline, or ParaNorman, or Monster House, or pretty much anything else instead of this insult to children.
What would you like the next column to be about? If it’s a kids film’ and it’s on Netflix UK, we want to hear your suggestions below!