"When I was growing up, my favorite Christmas memory was the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas record -- you know what I'm talking about? "Christmas, Christmas time is here. ..." You remember that song? My brother and I had it on LP, and we would play it on the slooooowest speed possible on the record player. So then, it sounded like four normal monotone guys just singing this boring Christmas song and then this demon from the ninth level of traitors and murderers screaming at them ..." -- Patton Oswalt, Feeling Kinda Patton
The enduring popularity (or, at least, the enduring familiarity) of Alvin and the Chipmunks can be explained by either the public's affection for innocent whimsy and charm or a perfectly-executed marketing plan that stretches back over four decades. Originally created in the '60s by songwriter Ross Bagdasarian, The Chipmunks were a fictional trio of singing mammals whose novelty recordings were immediately and strangely popular. In reality, The Chipmunks were a minor feat of engineering -- Bagdasarian would sing at half-speed, and when played back double-speed, his voice would be a full octave higher at normal tempo. It's a fairly cheap trick, and yet it resulted in a band -- or, rather, a brand -- that endured long enough to re-record Cheap Trick, on the 1981 album Chipmunk Punk. Thanks to the work of Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and the entertainment industry's never-ending quest to turn old ideas into new money, The Chipmunks have been featured in music and animation virtually non-stop since their debut. Now, 20th Century Fox Animation has given us a new iteration of the Chipmunk saga, and the result is a surprisingly good-natured kid's film -- which, phrased less delicately, is a nice way of saying that Alvin and the Chipmunks did not make me want to die after I saw it at a 10:00 AM press screening whose audience was seemingly made entirely of screaming babies talking on their cell phones.