Adults don’t always get it, but “Alvin and the Chipmunks” has a way with kids, winning another generation of fans (to the tune of more than $360 million worldwide) with Lee as the new human face of the franchise.
For producer Ross Bagdasarian Jr. (son of the group’s creator), it was Lee’s charisma on “My Name Is Earl” that convinced him the actor was right to play David Seville onscreen. “The most important thing about Dave is that he has to be an appealing character, someone you really like,” Bagdasarian explains, comparing Lee to such thesps as Tom Hanks and James Stewart. “While he’s yelling, ‘Alvin!’ you have to feel he’s not a bully or a brute, but an exasperated single parent with three very trying kids.”
Lee’s ability to make a law-breaking redneck loser likable on “My Name Is Earl” (now in its fourth season on NBC) was a good sign, as was his gift for physical comedy — after all, the CG chipmunks called for a believable real-world co-star. “Whether it’s rushing around trying to get his pants on or getting squirted in the eye with Binaca by Theodore, Jason made it comedic without it being a cartoon,” he says.