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'The Chipmunk Adventure' (G)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 25, 1987

For fans of singing rodents, "The Chipmunk Adventure," starring those three adorable woodland mischief-makers Simon, Theodore and the irrepressible Alvin, is a must-see, a romp, a delight and oh so chock-full-o'-fun.

So what if there were budget overruns, if the clash between megastar egos finally exploded in editing-room fist fights, if production was shut down for three months while Simon (always the most self-destructive of the three brothers) dried out at Betty Ford's burn-out clinic. Hollywood talk about this movie has been about as bad as for any movie since "The Care Bears." But do audiences care about word-of-mouth, or limo bills or production difficulties? No, they care about what's on the screen. And that's as it should be, because what's on the screen here is delicious, a treat -- three vermin working at the peak of their talents.

But all the glory doesn't go to the stars in front of the camera. There were two heroes working in the background as well: writer-producer Ross Bagdasarian and writer-director Janice Karman. It's never an easy chore to get a famous team back together again for old times' sake, even with the kind of public clamor these guys generate. (We all remember that a much-hoped-for reunion almost came off when Simon and Theodore sang together at last year's Farm Aid concert.) But Bagdasarian (whose father created the lovable scamps in 1958) and Karman have made a dream of millions come true.

Okay, so there are a few nits to pick. The animation is not exactly at Disney level and the movie is plot-heavy, but the story, in which the boys and their distaff sidekicks, the Chipettes, are unwitting accomplices to a ring of diamond smugglers, moves along briskly -- it's more coherent than "Ishtar" -- and, even though the younger kids might long for a little more rambunctiousness, there's plenty of action.

However, there's nothing bad to be said about the work of the three stars. If "The Chipmunk Adventure" is any indication, all the old grudges, the weight problems and the conflicts over artistic control are in the past. They've never been in better voice. Simon, especially, seems to be singing with a new resonance and verve. His singing on "Wooly Bully" would put Sam the Sham to shame. And the Chipettes -- Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor -- are more than equal foils for these madcap Munks.

Brittany, in particular, is a revelation -- a feisty siren with flaxen locks and a go-go get-'em spirit. The movies may have a brand-new star. When she and Alvin go button nose to button nose, they bury the needle on the charisma meter.

The Chipmunk Adventure,

at area theaters, is rated G and contains no offensive material.

Copyright The Washington Post

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