It starts with the title: "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," the third in the noxiously contemporary series of new Chipmunks films. Following 2009's "Squeakquel," "Chipwrecked," as a title, is actually rather subtle and demure.
But like the earlier two, "Chipwrecked" is full of the cheapest kind of pop culture references. Here is Alvin aping James Bond with a tail "shaken, not stirred," a suggestion to follow the Chipmunks on "Critter" and, gulp, a Charlie Sheen-ism of "winning."
This latest Chipmunks film, directed by Mike Mitchell ("Shrek Forever After") is aimed at a slightly younger demographic than the prior movies (it's rated G), and perhaps shallow references like these are enough to delight youngsters. But I doubt it. And besides, I wonder if parents would really want stale, cringe-worthy expressions like "Awkward!" instilled in another generation.
In "Chipwrecked," the Chipmunks' father figure, Dave Seville (Jason Lee, looking vaguely hostage-like) is taking his diminutive computer-generated friends on a vacation cruise en route to the Grammy-esque International Music Awards.
If you haven't followed the two earlier films, the Chipmunks, that 1950s novelty creation by Ross Bagdasarian Sr., have been restyled as tiny pop stars who burst into song-and-dance routines like a sped-up, annoying version of "Glee." Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler and Alan Tudyk) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) were in the last film joined by the Chipettes: Brittany (Christina Applegate), Jeanette (Anna Faris) and Eleanor (Amy Poehler).
All return here, but don't mind the voice credits: They all sound the same.
The theme is troublemaking and overzealous parenting. Alvin's brash misbehaving leads to the chipmunks thrown overboard and washing up on a deserted island. Searching for them are Dave and the chipmunks' old rival, a former music executive played by David Cross (who can only do only so much to help).
On the remote jungle island, they search for clues and uncover a vast conspiracy that stretches across multiple planes of time. Oops, that was "Lost." In "Chipwrecked," Alvin learns to be responsible, a fellow castaway (Jenny Slate) hunts for gold and Simon develops a French accent after being bitten by a spider. ■
► Directed by Mike Mitchell / With the voices of David Cross, Justin Long and Anna Faris / Animation / USA / 2011 / 87 min. / Rated G / English with Chinese subtitles / ★★☆☆☆ / Now Showing