Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a highly amusing lightweight meta-nostalgia fest.
by Jeremy Fogelman
Cast: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, KiKi Layne, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Flula Borg, Dennis Haysbert, Keegan-Michael Key, Tress MacNeille, Tim Robinson, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons, Animation, Adventure, Comedy
In 1989, the show Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers debuted but I didn’t get to see it (like most kids at the time) until it aired on Fox following the great classic DuckTales cartoon a bit later. I enjoyed the cartoon and everyone loved its great theme song -- and I was mostly lukewarm on the versions of Chip & Dale that originally inspired the show, as those were usually foils for Donald Duck and the like.
In 1988, the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released and was a masterpiece, a compelling allegory for gentrification and race relations set against a hilarious, zany world that was also a pitch perfect noir parody. No property, TV or movie, has ever been able to hit the “integration of live action and cartoons” heights again. And they still haven’t.
The Disney+ original movie Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers comes from “Lonely Island” director Akiva Schaffer and writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand (a pair known for a lot of TV work). Here the movie changes things up but uses the general concept of “toons in the real world” to have the 'Rescue Rangers' be a show but played by the actors Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg).
We also see appearances by mouse genius Gadget (with her original voice of legendary voice actor Tress MacNeille) and fly Zipper (both the original voice by Corey Burton and speaking voice by a “deep voiced” cameo). But Monterey Jack is voiced here by actual Australian actor Eric Bana doing a pretty good impression of the character, while Jim Cummings, who actually played the character back in the day, simply plays a bunch of other characters here like he always does.
The movie’s “drama” is set off by Dale quitting the show and causing its cancellation back in the 90s -- we catch up to him in modern times, where he has undergone a “3D CGI” surgery to look more modern, in what is almost a commentary about the ways actors will change themselves, often through surgery, to try and stay relevant, but the movie doesn’t stick to its guns about it.
Dale’s life is that of the faded star and struggling actor with overconfidence, a classic trope -- and there are some pretty funny Hollywood scenes with him. But the actual plot starts when Monterey Jack calls him for help after all this time -- he’s in trouble with some criminals having lost a lot of money on cheese (which tracks). Things continue to go wrong, and Monty goes missing, forcing Dale to reach out to his old friend who isn’t so happy to see him.
There are a lot of other characters that become important in the movie, including a police officer played by KiKi Lyane, a police chief played by J.K. Simmons, and various others I won’t spoil played by Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key and quite a few classic cameos. The actual storyline is a sort of interesting blend of cliched “find yourself again”, classic buddy cop, ridiculous Hollywood satire, and some almost poignant thoughts about nostalgia and the power of copyright.
I don’t think the movie quite realizes it’s taking a stance on that last one, but it’s definitely there -- a more capable script probably could’ve gotten more complex, but this one is more concerned with jamming as many background gags and nonsense as it can into what’s ultimately a fairly formulaic story.
Of course, that being said many of those gags and jokes are really funny -- I definitely found myself laughing out loud a few times. But the movie also tries to have that classic “cry at this moment” scene, which didn’t work at all -- it’s simply not mature enough to hit such emotional complexity.
I feel like the target audience for this is a bit specific -- you need to have been young enough to have watched the Rescue Rangers or the reruns, but not so young that it would’ve been meaningless or off the air. Is it even popular on streaming? The movie also gets pretty irreverent, which I appreciated, but it doesn’t really work as a kid-friendly movie despite being a Disney+ thing.
Again, not like it’s PG-13 or anything, it’s not objectionable, it’s just hard to imagine my parents or even my nieces liking it that much more than a sort of light escapism, because how could they appreciate any of the nostalgic references? Still, my expectation and hope wasn’t that this would be a worthy successor to Roger Rabbit, because it certainly cannot match that.
I only hoped it would be funny and clever enough to be rewatchable and rewindable -- and that’s really what it delivered. And I was definitely impressed by how many other studios' properties got included here, even if they didn’t all work. If you watched that old cartoon or know the song, this probably would be fun enough to take a look at at least.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers has a run time of 1 hour 37 minutes, and is rated PG for mild action and rude/suggestive humor. The film is streaming on Disney+.