John Waters is my favorite director of all time. He may even be my favorite human being of all time. His own personal sense of irony & self-amusement knows no bounds, though, which is how I ended up in a movie theater in the middle of the afternoon watching the fourth live-action Alvin & The Chipmunks feature, Road Chip, despite having never seen a Chipmunks movie prior. Much of the Internet was freaking out over the weekend about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is an undeniable phenomenon, but there was also a lot of confused excitement about John Waters, who is his own kind of phenomenon, appearing in the latest Chipmunks feature.
At first the John Waters/Chipmunks connection may seem a bit arbitrary & absurd, but the two entities aren’t entirely unrelated. For instance, I’ve never seen a Chipmunks movie before, but I do remember a trailer for one of the earlier entries (possibly the first?) involving a gag in which one of the Chipmunks eats a turd (because who wouldn’t love to see one of their favorite childhood cartoon characters do that?). Of course, this gag parallels one of Waters’ more infamous stunts: the time he filmed Divine eating dog shit at the end of his gross-out trashterpiece Pink Flamingos. I could’ve saved you the gruesome details of that connection just by informing you that Waters is an outspoken fan of the Chipmunks & probably simply requested to appear in a cameo for the franchise, but where would be the fun in that?
I am going to save you the emotional turmoil of actually watching Alvin & The Chipmunks: Road Chip by describing here the entirety of John Waters’ brief scene in the film. He appears as himself, flying first class alone on a flight to Miami. Alvin, the star chipmunk, sloppily eats a plate of spaghetti or some such next to Waters, who feigns being disgusted. Alvin asks something to the effect of, “What’s the matter, you’ve never been on a flight with a chipmunk before?” Waters scoffs, “Actually, I was on on a flight with the Chipettes [more on them later] and they were ladies.” Alvin then closes the exchange with the punchline, “Don’t you judge me. I’ve seen Pink Flamingos.”
And that about wraps it up. In order to witness this brief exchange, which is admittedly pretty cute, I suffered through a 90 minute Alvin & The Chipmunks feature I could’ve happily died without ever seeing. There were too many indignities to count haunting this embarrassment of an experience, but I’ll do my best to list as many that come to mind below. Please do not repeat my mistake. Love yourself.
1. Purchasing a ticket for Alvin & The Chipmunks: Road Chip. I currently work at a movie theater, so my ticket was comped, but still. It was mildly embarrassing to have to ask for one adult ticket for Alvin & The Chipmunks: Road Chip in the middle of a rainy afternoon. Funnily enough, in Waters’ interviews about his cameo in the film, he expresses his delight about when he’ll be able to see the film in the theater, since he’ll have the perverse delight of requesting one senior ticket for Alvin & The Chipmunks: Road Chip. I guess it’s a pleasure that improves with age.
2. Watching Road Chip alone among parents & young children. This sometimes feels awkward for me in children’s movie screenings, especially as an adult male. I feel like I’m always giving off at least low-level creep vibes when I watch kids’ movies alone in the theater. It was especially undignified this time, though, because the movie was for a very young audiece. Like, babies.
3. Watching two advertisements for Road Chip prior to the film beginning. In ads for the Road Chip soundtrack & a Road Chip-themed gift card, scenes from the film I resigned myself to sitting down & watching were sadistically warning me of what was soon to come. It was redundant at best, hopelessly cruel at worst.
4. A young child’s forced laughter. Okay, this one kinda makes me out to be a monster, but hear me out. Since the pint-sized audience at my screening was so young, just barely outside of baby range, I ended up seated near a super young child who had no business being in a movie theater. Instead of really watching or interacting with the movie, the kid was faking loud laughter at very odd, arbitrary moments in order to get a reaction out of their very patient, willing-to-please father. I’m not faulting the kid at all for trying to have a good time, but there was something about their loud, forced, fake laughter that rang a little too true to my own experience of desperately trying to find some amusement in a film I also had no business watching.
5. The Chimpunks’ awful voices. I mean, there was a reason I avoided the first three Alvin & The Chipmunks features. Their auto-tuned helium voices are annoying enough in the short-form ads. Experiencing them for an entire full-length feature was near torturous.
6. Feminized versions of Alvin & The Chipmunks. For some reason, this franchise (and possibly its animated source material?) decided it needed female versions of each of the Chipmunks just to wear cute clothes, suggestively gyrate their hips to dance music, and flirtatiously remind you of the meaningless of existence & the random cruelty of life & the universe.
7. A “music by” credit for Mark Mothersbaugh. It’s not enough that my favorite director of all time has a cameo in this film, I also have to deal with the fact that the front-man for my favorite band of all time was even more heavily involved? I know Mothersbaugh has been doing this kind of thing for decades, but that’s still rough.
8. A cameo from LMFAO’s Redfoo. I can’t tell if this cameo makes Waters’ contribution more or less subversive, but it hurt too watch either way.
9. Urban line dancing.
10. Country line dancing.
11. A fart joke about “pizza toots”.
12. The Chipmunks butchering Gloria Estefan’s “Conga”
13. The following line [delivered by a Chipmunk to their “dad” Dave]: “Any girlfriend of yours is a girlfriend of ours.”
14. The multiple weird insinuations about whether Dave is The Chipmunk’s “real” father or adoptive father.
15. A Chipmunk butchering Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”
16. Being tricked into watching American Idol.
17. Having suffered through the film’s ad campaign frequently enough to recognize that there were gags from the trailer missing in the film.
18. “Dave liked it & he’s gonna put a ring on it.”
19. Watching comedy greats Retta, Jennifer Coolidge, and Tony “Buster Bluth” Hale slum it in larger-than-cameo roles. Hale easily got the worst of it on that front, as he thanklessly plays the film’s antagonist & The Chipmunks’ ever-thwarted foil.
20. The implication that Alvin has watched Pink Flamingos.
21. “I have a very particular set of skills.” Can we retire this reference now?
22. The Chipmunks butchering The Dixie Cups’ [and many others’] “Iko Iko.” This one actually hurt the most out of all the auto-tuned karaoke in the film. It’s a New Orleans classic, a song I grew up loving. And now it’s been soiled.
23. An extended tangent filmed in New Orleans. This included a cleaned-up version of Bourbon Street busking, off-season Mardi Gras beads, a “New Orleans jazz parade”, and a thick-accented local yokel in a mumu demanding that the out-of-towners drink her moonshine.
24. A second-line themed cover of “Uptown Funk”.
25. A gag in which Hale takes a nut shot.
26. A gag in which a parrot shits on Hale’s shoulder.
27. Beats by Dre ad placement.
28. Chuck E. Cheese ad placement.
29. An honest-to-God Santigold song on the soundtrack. Her last record, Master of My Make-Believe, was really fantastic stuff, but it was released over 3 years ago and I feel like I’m just starting to hear her songs in various movies & advertisements. I’m glad Santigold’s getting paid for her legitimately awesome music, but I had no interest in hearing songs I actually like in this film.
30. “Teens today” social media shaming.
31. A false death crisis following a car accident. Oh man, that character totally died, which is a bummer. Except that they’re fine, which is awesome! It’s a common trope in a lot of recent media, one I can’t help but dwell on thanks to critic Tasha Robinson’s excellent piece on The Disney Death.
32. A “Turn Down for What” dance break.
33. A mostly-wasted Taylor Swift archetype.
34. An original song sung at the climax that included a rap breakdown.
35. “Does this look like a face that would survive prison?”
37. A who-cares romantic subplot.
38. A legal proceeding conclusion that recalls the gloriously idiotic conclusion to Mac & Me, except way, way less fun.
39. Finding myself oddly compelled to stick around for scenes playing in tandem with the final credits to receive closure on Tony Hale’s storyline.
40. Three separate incidents of Dave screaming, “Alvin!”. One would’ve been a decent callback. Two is an understandable indulgence in excess. Three is cruel. There’s no need for three “Alvins!”, just as there’s no real need for four Alvin & The Chipmunks movies, but here we are.
I love John Waters with all of my heart, but I can’t say that the emotional toll of these 40 indignities were worth the comedic payoff of his brief cameo. I hope he had fun filming the scene & I hope he has even more fun ordering his senior citizen movie ticket as soon as he has the free time. That’s the only good thing that could’ve come from this. I had no business being there.