There’s a whole genre of film that an esteemed colleague of mine calls “Slang & Fart.” It’s a particularly insidious brand of children’s entertainment that tends to be built around jokes that are either basely scatological or centered on the idea that it’s inherently funny to see an anthropomorphic critter toss out words like “fleek” or “jiggy.” It’s a remarkably lazy approach to writing that seems to bore even the least discerning kids.
Even with those low standards in mind, The Road Chip feels shockingly slight. The fourth entry in the Alvin and the Chipmunks series (a franchise that has grossed an alarming half-billion dollars) follows the titular trio on a quest from Los Angeles to Miami, where they want to prevent father figure Dave (Jason Lee) from proposing to paramour Shira (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) in order to avoid hanging with her mildly evil son Miles (Josh Green). Along the way, they run afoul of a bumbling Air Marshall (Tony Hale) and perform a whole bunch of squeakily-remixed pop songs.
Thanks to some shoddy-looking animation and only the vaguest semblance of a plot, The Road Chip feels like a rush job, crafted to fan the flames of an inexplicably efficient (and effective) gravy train, seemingly released this weekend to serve as a safety net parents who want to take their tykes to the cinema but didn’t think to buy The Force Awakens tix in advance. Those parents might want to consider another screening of The Good Dinosaur, as there’s nothing here for them save for an incredibly surreal cameo that makes you believe there’s a subversive version of an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie that could work in the right hands. Most importantly, though, there doesn’t seem to be a lot here for the flick’s target audience—the only thing that impressed the multitude of youths in my screening room was some game physical comedy care of the better-than-this Hale. They were otherwise unmoved by the parade of flatulence and slightly dated pop culture references, meaning The Road Chip fails to even cross to the low bar of Slang & Fart movies—though, in its defense, it’s also barely a movie. C–