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Reviews for December 23rd, 2009

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Directed by Betty Thomas.

When Alvin (voice of Justin Long), Simon (voice of Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney), perform together at a concert, Alvin accidentally causes Dave Seville (Jason Lee), the Chipmunks’ caretaker, to get injured and end up at the hospital. After yet another accident involving Dave’s wheelchair-bound aunt, the Chipmunks must live with Dave’s videogame-obsessed cousin, Toby (Zachary Levi), for the time being. He enrolls them in high school where jocks bully them and they struggle to fit in. The principal, Dr. Rubin (Wendie Malick), is such a big fan of their music group that she lets them represent the school in a music competition with a $25,000 prize that would help to revive the school’s music program. Little do the Chipmunks know that the Chipettes, Brittany (voice of Christina Applegate), Eleanor (voice of Amy Poehler) and Jeanette (voice of Anna Faris), are about to enroll in the school as well and compete against them while under the guidance of the Chipmunks’ former agent, Ian (David Cross). Fans of the original film will be pleased to know that the sequel maintains the original’s cuteness and kid-friendly physical humor that will entertain little kids while keeping adults unsurprised, but never bored. Sure, the plot takes many liberties that might cause older viewers to roll their eyes given all the silliness that takes place onscreen, especially when it comes to any scenes with the villain, Ian, but younger viewers tend to overlook those flaws and just have a great time. Co-screenwriters Jon Vitti, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger even include a few clever and funny one-liners for the irresistibly adorable Chipmunks, although there’s one use of a very cheap fart joke that could’ve been disposed of entirely. Director Betty Thomas, who previously directed the family-friendly films Doctor Dolittle and The Brady Bunch Movie, wisely keeps the pace moving along briskly and includes a lively soundtrack so that there’s rarely a dull moment to be found. Please be sure to stay for an additional scene after the end credits. At an ideal running time of 89 minutes, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel manages to be harmless, diverting and forgivably silly fun that will delight kids while keeping adults awake and, for the most part, amused.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by 20th Century Fox.
Opens nationwide.

Police, Adjective

Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu.

In Romanian with subtitles. Cristi (Dragos Bucur), an undercover policeman, follows a teenager, Alex (Alexandru Sabadac), an informer who tipped him about his two friends, Doina (Anca Diaconu) and Victor (Radu Costin), who he hangs out with while smoking weed. Victor supplies Alex with the weed, but Cristi eventually learns that Victor’s currently absent brother might be the one whom Victor gets the drugs from. When Cristi isn’t surveilling and staking out Alex, Victor and Doina from a distance, he’s smoking cigarettes or eating a meal at home that his new wife, Anca (Irina Saulescu), had prepared for him. Back at the police station, his boss, Nelu (Ion Stoica), asks him to speed up the investigation which he has worked on for over a week already. Cristi prefers to take his time gathering more information to find the accurate origins of the drugs because he doesn’t think it would be fair to arrest Victor right away given that he’s not the drug dealer; he’s merely an irresponsible teenager who smokes weed. Merely offering someone else drugs is considered unlawful and punishable with prison time, but it turns out that this particular law will be nullified soon in Romania just like it has already been throughout the rest of Europe where it’s not a crime. Writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu, who previously directed the deadpan comedy 12:08 East of Bucharest, moves the plot along at a very relaxed pace that enhances the cinema verité style of cinematography. Admittedly, it does take a while to get accustomed to that slow pace during the first and second acts which have minimal dialogue, but patient viewers will be rewarded by a 15-minute third act that’s driven by witty and dryly funny dialogue, none of which will be spoiled here. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the film becomes quietly thought-provoking once you realize that Cristi is in the process of battling with his moral conscience as a human being versus his required and expected duties as an officer of the law. At a running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes, Police, Adjective manages to be a leisurely paced, gently engrossing crime drama with an exceptionally witty and thought-provoking finale.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

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