In the holly-decked history of holiday songs, before the Singing Dogs barked "Jingle Bells," before Cheech and Chong tittered "Santa Claus and His Old Lady," there was Dave Seville and the Chipmunks' chirping "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)," a nifty novelty tune promoting that nifty novelty item, the hula hoop. You could hear the sleigh bells and cash registers ringing.

That was 1958. The Chipmunks - troublemaker Alvin, bespectacled brainiac Simon and chubby-cheeked Theodore - are back, this time CGI-animated, in Alvin and the Chipmunks, a diversion for 6-year-olds and their babysitters.

Starring Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl) as Dave Seville, a struggling songwriter who discovers the harmonizing rodents, Alvin takes satiric aim at the music industry. (Seville is the stage name of Ross Bagdasarian Sr., the novelty songwriter who sped up playback to create the Chipmunks' high-pitched voices.)

In the movie, the chipmunks enter Dave's life - and invade his bungalow - on the day he's been ditched by his girl and rejected by a recording industry exec, Ian (David Cross). When Dave recognizes the "boys" have musical chops, Ian signs them.

Dave sets limits for these adopted sons. But Ian gives them mountains of toys and candy to win their loyalty - and exploit them for every penny this furry version of 'N Sync can bring in. Dave cares about the health and welfare of the boy group voiced by Justin Long, Jesse McCartney and Matthew Gray Gubler, and doesn't like the way Ian is retooling his "sons" into hip-hop bad boys with silver-lame jumpsuits and designer sneakers.

Ultimately, the values and the CGI are good, but the acting is broad and the chipmunks aren't really differentiated. What happened to Alvin, the rodent counterpart of Dennis the Menace? Was he declawed in the translation to CGI?

Alvin and the Chipmunks **

Directed by Tim Hill, written by Jon Vitti, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi. With Jason Lee and the sped-up voices of Justin Long, Jesse McCartney and Matthew Gray Gubler. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Running time: 1 hour, 31 mins.

Parent's guide: PG (mild vulgarity)

Showing at: area theatersEndText