Twentieth Century Fox
It’s been really exciting this year introducing my son to the movies. Well, it was exciting until this past weekend when he told me the next movie he wants to see in the theater is Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.
I should have expected this. He’s a little boy. The trailer, which he’s now seen played before such wholesome features as The Peanuts Movie and The Good Dinosaur, surely won him over with its fart and poop jokes. But this is the same kid who was too scared to watch more than 20 minutes of Paddington because the mix of live-action and CGI characters was too real. Relative to his age, though, he’s aged a lot since then.
Let’s imagine if I wasn’t a movie critic who can not only see the The Road Chip early but also take my kids to the Saturday morning press screening. The Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel opens the same day as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He’s aware of Star Wars and saw a trailer for the new installment and even seemed interested in it. Yet he hasn’t asked me when we get to see it.
The list of movies he wants to see with Daddy consists of The Road Chip first and then Finding Dory. If he finds out there’s a new Ice Age sequel coming out soon, that will join them. But no Star Wars, which is fine because that’s a little too old for him anyway. But I can’t imagine having to spend the opening weekend of The Force Awakens with the Chipmunks instead of the Skywalkers. And I bet some parents will have to do that.
I could probably blame Minions, which my kids have been watching over and over lately, for being an entry point to a Chipmunks movie. Its characters are actually like little yellow pills, literal gateway drugs to the worst of children’s entertainment.
They and their movie seem innocent enough with their relatable-to-children gibberish and love of bananas. But now I realize their nonsense covers of 1960s hits like “Hair” and the theme from The Monkees is just one step toward the Chipmunks’ traditional high-pitched renditions of pop favorites. And here I was distracted by getting to hear The Doors and The Rolling Stones in a silly kids’ movie.
It’s not the Road Chip soundtrack I fear, though. I certainly listened to Alvin and the Chipmunks tunes when I was little (and will no doubt shortly put up with another season of their holiday staple, “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)”). I will confess, however, that I preferred the knockoff group The Happy Hamsters.
I don’t even fear the sitcommon premise of Alvin, Simon and Theodore wanting to keep their “dad” from getting married, giving them a new brother they dislike. That’s just a simple base plot that’s there to hold all the gags and musical numbers together. It’s those gags, particularly any involving main characters shitting on the floor due to nervousness, that I’m scared of.
And yet I’m obviously to blame. Like any often-immature male who has become a father is known to do, I make and encourage jokes about “passing gas” with my young children. I admit it: I fart in front of them and then tell them there must be a duck under the couch. I really have no right to be annoyed by a movie doing something similar.
Like any movie buff who has become a father is known to want, though, I wish I could be the guy who keeps my kids away from dumbed-down family films and “bright garbage for an hour and a half” animated features (thanks for that phrase, Master of None) and only have them watch quality cinema.
I hear that wish in the form of an expectation from plenty of my peers who don’t yet have children. They’re going to raise perfect cinephiles from the start. Yeah, good luck with that. As if any of us can deny our own crap-filled youths, anyway, unless we grew up completely sheltered and prohibited from making such choices. Which I understand is the case for some.
Did we have anything as bad as the Chipmunks movies? (By the way, I must cop to the fact I’ve never seen any of the other three installments of the franchise, so I am totally prejudging these movies, opposing them only based on what I’ve seen in the trailers.) My generation, at least, had The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, so I can answer “yes.”
The difference for the point of this article is that I didn’t subject my parents to that one. My brother and I were dropped off at the closest theater showing it, which was a few towns away (I was a big fan of the trading cards/stickers and had to see it!). Of course, we were a bit older than my kids, who are still too young to be left without a guardian anywhere.
It was also a very different time when I was a kid being left unsupervised. And not just for theatrical viewings but everything. I may not be able to make my kids watch only Buster Keaton films this early or ever, but while I don’t want to be a helicopter parent I do want to know and see what they’re watching. And assist them in their comprehension of what they’re watching.
Fortunately, there’s another luxury I have in being a critic invited to press screenings: the movies are free. The gamble of taking my kids to something they might find too frightening or I might find too inappropriate has no risk. As has happened before, we can walk out after 20 minutes and it’s no loss to us. So long as I’m not assigned to review the movie, that is.
That means I have little reason to say no to my son. We’ll go see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. And as long as it’s not harmful to do so, we’ll stay through the whole thing. I may hate the experience, but we all have to make sacrifices for those we love. One of mine apparently involves talking rodents who make light of potty accidents and teach the kids new dance moves with help from Redfoo of LMFAO.
It could be worse. And probably will be. One day they’ll want me to take them to a Paul Blart sequel.