"Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" stars John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons, and KiKi Layne. Released on Disney+ on May 20, 2022, the film has Chip and Dale reuniting to save their friend following a mysterious disappearance.
The film was directed by Akiva Schaffer, who also directed films such as "Hot Rod", "The Watch", and "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping". It is based on a television series of the same name created by Tad Stones and Alan Zaslove. The Disney Afternoon block was one of the best, if not the best, thing to come out in the 1990s for Disney fans. Kids will come home after school every weekday to watch their favorite shows, whether they're fresh takes on our favorite Disney characters or something entirely new. These include "DuckTales", "TaleSpin", "Gargoyles", "Mighty Ducks", and "Adventures of the Gummi Bears" because Disney thought gummy candies shaped like bears would make for an enticing cartoon for kids. But, of course, there's one show that came to people's minds when that television block was mentioned: "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers". Released in the early 90s, "Rescue Rangers" delivered a fresh take on the iconic chipmunk duo. The series saw them running a detective agency to deal with smaller crimes ignored by the authorities. Despite lasting for more than a year, the show became a cult following for 90s fans. Thirty years later, Disney is bringing the Rescue Rangers back in business, but not as a reboot. Instead, it's a comeback that sees the characters in a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"-like setting, which sees humans coexisting with almost every animated character. So, if you want a follow-up to Robert Zemeckis' live-action/animated classic, here you go. It was originally developed as another live-action/CGI hybrid akin to "Alvin and the Chipmunks", but thanks to its change in directors and writers, it transformed into something that we didn't expect it to be. As soon as its first trailer dropped, we were shocked to see the characters in different animation styles, mostly Chip and Dale, interacting with live humans in a self-referential setting. It's so weird but also strangely intriguing. Like everyone else, I grew up watching the two chipmunks from "Rescue Rangers" and the other cartoons with Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and their friends. I haven't gone back to "Rescue Rangers" as much as others, but my love for Chip and Dale and The Lonely Island's involvement were enough for me to check the movie out. With that said, let's see if this comeback is just as nutty as its concept.
The movie takes place in a world where humans and cartoon characters coexist. The story centers on Chip (Mulaney) and Dale (Samberg), two chipmunk friends who starred in the "Rescue Rangers" series with their co-stars Monterey Jack (Bana), Gadget Hackwrench (Tress MacNeille), and housefly Zipper (Dennis Haysbert). When their show ended production, the crew went their separate ways. Thirty years later, Chip now works as an insurance salesman, while Dale has had "CGI surgery" and works the convention circuit to relive his glory days. Chip and Dale are soon called back into action when Monterey Jack suddenly disappears, along with the other toons. This resulted in the chipmunk duo going on a dangerous journey across Los Angeles to rescue their friend and rebuild their friendship.
Reboots and revivals are pretty much all the rage nowadays, especially in the magical world of Disney. They revived the Muppets, brought back "DuckTales" via a reboot series, and recently reintroduced "The Proud Family" to a new generation with "Louder and Prouder", which is worth checking out if you haven't already. This film has the Mouse House resuscitate the charismatic chipmunk duo and their Rescue Rangers team with a new makeover and a brand new setting. Reviving a classic cartoon from yesteryear, mainly one from the 1990s, is usually seen by nostalgic fans as a risky idea in the film industry. While some revivals didn't live up to their original counterparts, mainly because they incorporated modern trends and CGI upgrades, a few of them actually became as good as their predecessors. The primary examples were the "DuckTales" reboot and "The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder". "Chip' n Dale: Rescue Rangers" is something that could've gone in either direction depending on the execution.
Based on the marketing alone, it looked like a possible recipe for disaster, given its live-action/animated treatment and sense of nostalgia overload. Fortunately for me, the final cut happened to be the complete opposite. The movie is a pleasantly charming and humorous satire that pays tribute to (and parodies) the Disney Afternoon show and the film industry, mainly the animation department. It's surprising to see the amount of care put into the story and the characters introduced in "Rescue Rangers" without losing what made the show memorable in the first place.
A few issues in its narrative prevented it from being the next "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", including the pacing and cliched elements. Regardless, the movie is a wildly silly and heartwarming experience that represents the importance of friendship over fame and its clever meta-commentary. The film showcases the relevant satirization of the industry, mainly reboots, bootlegs, and the animation styles through its cartoon characters and cameos. Akiva Schaffer is no stranger to the satire genre, as he poked fun at the music industry in "Popstar" with splendid results. "Chip' n Dale" saw Schaffer taking a jab at anything the animation industry has offered over the years in his first family-friendly feature film. Even though the results were far from perfect, he proved himself to be the right choice in reviving the classic cartoon through modernized traditions. The screenplay by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand also delivered plenty of solid dialogue that's tolerable for adults but may go over many kids' heads.
I also liked the film because it places its full attention on the cartoon characters, with the humans serving as supporting characters, mainly Ellie Steckler (played by KiKi Layne), a rookie officer who helps Chip and Dale solve their case. This approach worked wonders in last month's "Sonic the Hedgehog 2". Unsurprisingly, it also works in "Rescue Rangers", which would satisfy people who don't care about the humans in the other live-action/CGI adaptations of beloved cartoons. Although, it does result in the human characters being one-dimensional. Nonetheless, the wacky toons have enough moments in their personality and humor to keep the movie consistently entertaining, with Chip and Dale being as charming as they were in the series. John Mulaney and Andy Samberg may seem like odd choices to voice the chipmunk duo at first, but the concept helps provide more sense into these choices since Chip and Dale are represented as "actors" playing themselves in the "Rescue Rangers" show. As for their vocal performances, I thought Mulaney and Samberg did a superb job maintaining the characters' personalities while providing a unique twist to the cuddly duo. KiKi Layne was also pretty decent in keeping up with the toons regarding her role as Ellie. I also loved that they brought back Tress MacNeille to reprise her role as Gadget from the show, even though her appearance was surprisingly minimal.
The one character that's been getting plenty of attention recently since its release was the film's antagonist Sweet Pete (Arnett), who's basically Peter Pan as a middle-aged crime boss. It looks like we now have two movies involving a grown-up Peter Pan. Shocking, I know. It turns out that some people were upset about this because Sweet Pete's personality is similar to what happened to Bobby Driscoll, who voiced Peter in the 1953 film. Long story short, it did not go well for the young actor. I understand that the parallels between the two can be troubling, especially to those who read about it, but I don't think it should be the sole reason for the film to be ignored. It's inappropriate, sure, but it also works because of the film's satirized nature. "South Park" has parodied famous characters from different movies all the time, so I see no problem with Disney doing the same with their characters...if it's done right, of course, which it did. Sweet Pete is seen as a by-the-numbers antagonist who runs a bootleg business. However, Will Arnett delivered enough moments in his vocal performance to make this modern take on the Disney character slightly amusing.
Another element that I enjoyed was the movie's mixture of live-action and animation. The film can easily be identified as a cross between "Roger Rabbit" and "Wreck-It Ralph", but the characters resembling different animation approaches also gave it the "Amazing World of Gumball" vibe, which was pretty cool, in my opinion. While it's far from revolutionary, the animation styles blend nicely side-by-side, especially when having a 2D animated Chip in the same room as a CGI Dale. The 2D look for some characters, including Chip and Monterey Jack, appears to be created through 3D animation, akin to the recent "Tom and Jerry" movie, which honestly didn't look too bad. It looked a bit cheap at times, but it did its job in recreating the traditional animated look of the toons that hearkens back to the classic days of animation.
Overall, "Chip' n Dale: Rescue Rangers" is a humorously entertaining comeback stuffed with cartoon cameos, meta-humor, and tons of heart. Its flawed storytelling and questionable villain choice kept it from being on par with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". Despite that, it's another revival done right, with enough nostalgia to impress plenty of fans and enough refreshing ideas to lure in newcomers. Thanks to its solid cast, Schaffer's direction, strong comedy, and entertaining characters, the film is another delightful addition to Disney+'s long line of original content. More importantly, it is one of the more pleasantly surprising movies of the year so far. If you're familiar with the "Rescue Rangers" show or even The Lonely Island, the film is worth checking out.