With The Chipettes off to LA to judge *American Idol*, their male kin embark on a road trip to stop their human guardian Dave (Lee) proposing to his girlfriend in Miami. The hitch? Irritating prospective stepbrother is along for the ride.
Few bad puns or poo jokes are spurned in the fourth – sorry, fur-th - instalment of this bafflingly stubborn franchise. When Theodore, Simon and Alvin – the hungry one, the nice one and the borderline narcissist – discover an engagement ring in their surrogate dad's safe it sparks abandonment issues and an ill-conceived expedition to stop the deed in its tracks.
The Chipmunks' Uptown Funk sounds like someone feeding a Graf Zeppelin through an industrial grinder.
If a desperate attempt to prevent two good people getting married seems an odd premise for a kids film, the Chipmunks, the Minions' more socially derelict cousins, get even harder to root for when they start singing. Thankfully, there's a solid 30 minutes before the noise terrorism commences, although when their version of Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk (disappointingly not retagged 'Uptown Munk') hits, it sounds a lot like someone feeding a Graf Zeppelin through an industrial grinder.
There are occasional moments of redemption as the scurry of chipmunks wreck slapstick carnage en route to Florida, most stemming from Arrested Development's Tony Hale, a vengeful air marshal pursuing them across the country like a cross between Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive and a deranged zookeeper. Along the way squirrels get drugged, Hale is pooed on by a macaw and John Waters pops up as a first-class passenger. Alvin, it transpires, is a big Pink Flamingos fan.
But when it tries to land emotional beats, the mix of CG animation and live-action, a combination recently elevated to new heights by Paddington, feels stale and worn. A step-bromance with Dave's girlfriend's son (Josh Green) is undermined when the former bully suddenly morphs into charming and helpful teen, while Lee's Dave, surely by now in need of earplugs, is exasperated long past the point when he'd normally release Alvin and co back into the wild.
The franchise squeaks past with a so-so sequel that barely improves on what came before. Our only hope is that at some point they'll have to hibernate.