I look on at Dave being an unconventional single dad. While I don’t really know him, he looks to be a caricature of Hollywood stereotypes. This parenting style means that he is habitually bumbling, make-it-up-as-you-go and must-keep-them-happy.

Mostly, he is comically entertaining for his lackadaisical approach to his dad status. Lackadaisical means Dave might give a whimsical shrug of his shoulders when his three boys concoct trouble that only a Disney author could script. I think that the textbook term for his parenting character is laissez-faire.

Dave’s parenting is short of inspiration. His dad gig is marginally amusing because I am watching a movie. In real life, I would be a lot more concerned about how Simon, Theodore and Alvin transition into adulthood.

Dave’s one great exception to his slipshod parenting is his positive mantra: “Do not give up on family.” Regardless of his three sons’ recurrent antics, I give Dave top marks for affirming his family catchcry by formally adopting his three boys. You may know them collectively as The Chipmunks.


I was a somewhat reluctant viewer of the fourth instalment of The Chipmunks’ chain of movies, worried by the risk of haemorrhaging IQ points. I struggle to get past the shrill singing voices of the trouble-making rodents. I anticipate that most people would shake their heads at my critical view of The Chipmunks’ selection of contemporary pop songs with the sometimes banal, sometimes offensive lyrics. I considered whether I should seek out options of healthier content instead of risqué Hollywood humour.

My pondering shifted to nervous questioning in my mind when my own daughters did their best mimic of the sharp, comical voice of the singing trio as we made our way to the movies. They knew one of The Chipmunks’ songs, picked up on someone else’s parenting shift. I was less than impressed by their musical selection — “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”

If nothing else, our cinema prelude was a conversation starter. I asked Miss 8, “What do you think ‘hot’ means?” We chatted about women being rated for sassy appearance rather than their intelligence, spirit or whole-heartedness. Our chat moved to thinking about who sings the song and who they are singing it to.

Both girls acknowledged that it is not cool for anyone to make a play for a person who is already in a relationship. We tapped into the thoughts and feelings of a girlfriend who is dumped when her boyfriend is seduced into a relationship upgrade based on a hotness rating scale. I settled into the thought of more hearty conversations with my daughters on the other side of the movie.

Mixed Messages

Ultimately, the slapstick antics of the chipmunks and their human step-brother-to-be pulled some laughs from my daughters. I even gave over to tapping my feet when Simon, Theodore and Alvin cut to a trill harmony and sniggered at some lighter moments.

But I was shocked and am still bitterly disappointed by the step-brother-to-be voicing, “Dads are over-rated.” Sure, the comment was designed to draw out the pathos from an audience who knew that the young man’s dad had walked out rather than died when the boy was five, as he had shared earlier in the movie.

For a movie pitched at kids, I was simultaneously appalled by the running down of dads and bothered by its message to my daughters. I expect my family entertainment to talk up family, and I spent the remainder of the movie deliberately seeking out redress for the slight that I took personally. A lump clogged up my throat and a tear escaped. I was saddened less by the actual words — more by the message my daughters might have heard.

I was a tad heartened when Dave formally adopted his chipmunk sons, as an affirmation that he would not give up on them. Kudos to him. But the damage was done. While Dave represents a breed of kind-hearted dads, a day later I am still niggled by the “dads are over-rated” comment.

Ultimately, there was no surprise that the movie had a conventional happy ending. I moseyed into daylight appreciating the upbeat fun that Miss 8 and Miss 12 had taken from the chipmunks’ frivolity. I was hardly expecting to rate the movie a ten for cinema excellence and enjoyed that I could set my brain to stupor for a little while.

The niggling caveat remains of being stung by the script’s cheap line. Yet, I am loving the school holiday time with my daughters. Every hug, shared smile and “I love you” has overtaken the Hollywood slur.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

Leave A Comment