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Disney+ Review: Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

May 19, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is technically the latest in Disney’s long line of live action reboots, reviving the fan favourite Disney Channel cartoon series. But in the hands of director Akiva Schaffer (from comedy troupe The Lonely Island), this one serves as a satirical sendup of the sorts of nostalgia-driven, cameo-filled, IP-fuelled reboots that have become the norm in Hollywood.

The result is an entertaining reboot (or comeback?) that has fun doubling as a meta sendup of one. Set in a world where humans and cartoon characters live together, the film reimagines Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg) as washed up actors, who met as kids in school and became big stars on the show Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, but had a falling out when Dale tried to go solo and the show got cancelled.

In present day, Dale has gotten “CGI surgery” that has given him a 3D makeover, and now spends his time doing fan conventions. Chip, on the other hand, is still his old 2D self, and sells life insurance for a living. The two chipmunks are brought back together when their old co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), who developed a bad cheese habit and owes money to underworld crime bosses, becomes the latest toon to go missing. With Monty at risk of getting “bootlegged” and sold off to be used in cheap, overseas ripoffs, Chip and Dale must play detective again in order to find him.

This all, of course, calls to mind the 1988 Robert Zemeckis classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which famously did the whole toons and people living together thing so well. This film has been drawing a lot of comparisons to Roger Rabbit (who even has a brief cameo!), but one of the things that made that film work so seamlessly was that it had a committed human performance from Bob Hoskins, who played it completely straight against the toons. Kiki Layne struggles to fill that role here as a police detective who was a fan of the Rescue Rangers growing up, with her performance feeling like a distraction. She doesn’t really sell the illusion of acting alongside animated characters, and it comes across as overacting.

The story itself feels a bit basic, and borrows a little too heavily from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (though this might be meant as another in-joke). Still, the screenplay by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand has a lot of funny one-liners and references to the original show and our current reboot-driven culture, with Chip often griping about the prospect of coming back for a reunion. The most inventive aspect of the film is how it blends different animation styles (including a trip through the “uncanny valley”) into a live action world. The film also has fun with its sense of scale, with the chipmunks living in tiny little houses that are built beside bigger ones.

Schaffer’s film is simply chock full of amusing little details and in-jokes. This is the sort of comedy that throws a lot at the wall, and while not all of it lands, a surprising amount of it does stick. Even if the numerous cameos and callbacks occasionally feel like too much, this is all part of the joke; we are living in IP-obsessed times, with many fans simply wanting a barrage of references and appearances from their favourite characters. But it’s self-referential in a way that something like Space Jame: A New Legacy wasn’t. This film delivers a lot of the same “oh look, it’s that character!” fan service, while also poking fun at the concept, sort of like having its cake and eating it too.

If you were somehow worried that Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers wouldn’t have enough of The Lonely Island’s signature style, than you have nothing to worry about, because this is every inch a Lonely Island movie (albeit a family-friendly one). The irreverence is here, but also a genuine love for these characters and their friendship, with the voices of Mulaney and Samberg matching them perfectly. The result is a better than expected (though still by no means perfect) reboot that has a good time poking fun at itself for being one.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of May 20th.

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