Fanatic Story Score: 10/10
Fanatic Score Overall: 8/10
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!!
If I needed to sum up my feelings for Disney’s latest feature-length movie, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, in a word, it would be “satisfied.”
Never in the wildest corners of my imagination would I expect moviemakers to deliver anything close to the story that was found in Rescue Rangers. In all honesty, I was scared. Having been grossly disappointed with nearly all of Disney’s latest reboots and remakes, I was prepared for the worst to befall my childhood heroes. Boy, was I wrong.
Director Akiva Schaffer and writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand delivered the perfect storm of originality and tradition. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is this generation’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which provides a glorious roast of the current state of Hollywood and its reboot craze. Through a cornucopia of cameos across all the major studios and properties, fans get a story that is as close to perfect as the writers could probably get, at least in this writer’s opinion.
For the first time in a long time, Disney provides fans with a buddy comedy that truly has something for everyone, and the new standard of “Where are they now?” stories is set.
There is a ton to talk about, so let’s get started.
Let’s talk about the story.
Rescue Rangers takes place in modern-day Los Angeles at a time when the reboot craze is at an all-time high. We learn that when the television show was at its height, Dale (Samberg) was tempted away to star in his own show called Double-O Dale. However, that show never made it past the pilot, and Rescue Rangers could not stand on its feet without the red-nosed chipmunk. Jumping forward to the present-day where Dale is trolling the Fan Convention scene, Chip (Mulaney) is selling insurance (still bitter about Dale’s decision to abandon the show), and Gadget and Zipper got together and have a massive family. After getting a call for help from Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), they reunite for the first time in years and are pulled into a real-life caper. Our Chipmunks team up with a young LAPD officer (and Rescue Rangers fan) Ellie (Kiki Layne) and find out soon that they are in way over their heads and are about to crack open the toon case of the century.
We learn that toons are being kidnapped and subjected to a procedure called “bootlegging,” augmenting them enough to get past copyright laws and using them to create knockoff movies. Once they are taken, the toons are never seen again.
The world of the movie shows toons, and humans integrated into society together, very much in the same realm as Roger Rabbit, only there is no Toon Town this time, and the relationship between toons and humans is adapted to the relatively new development of fan conventions and social media. Animated Characters like Dale and He-Man are signing autographs right alongside human actors like Paul Rudd. Like human actors past their prime, we see toons struggling to get by despite show cancelations, substance abuse (cheese), aging, and other problems.
But at the end of the day, this is a movie about Chip and Dale and the brotherhood they have with each other, which they rediscover as the plot goes on.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a triumph of animation across the board. It blends 2D and 3D animation with real-world surroundings while also being religiously committed to the specific animation style of each character and franchise. At a time when 2D animation appears to be on the backburner of Walt Disney Studios for some time, Rescue Rangers allows it to shine like it used to do. I hope that this movie will reignite an appreciation for and desire to see more 2D animation from Disney in the future.
Like Roger Rabbit that came before it, Rescue Rangers provides a reach beyond the Disney IP that shows all toons living amongst each other. We have references to Nickelodeon shows (although we never see them), My Little Pony, Muppets, South Park, Rick & Morty, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Transformers, Super Mario Bros., and even the infamous Cats movie. I can’t even begin to fathom just how much of the film’s budget was spent on licensing agreements.
But the brilliance of the cameos cannot be understated. From Baloo outshining Dale from the Disney Afternoon to a can of dip being kept on-hand by the bad guys, the one-0ff shots of and allusions to so many characters and franchises just make sense.
One thing that was a given about this movie was that it was going to make fun of reboots. But was it going to go too far? They did not. Adam Samberg and John Mulaney deliver a performance with just the right amount of self-admitting satire that breaks the fourth wall in a very empathetic way.
Cosmetic “CGI Surgery” is all the rage with originally 2D characters today. “Ugly Sonic” has his own role as a weird niche at the Fan Con. Reboots are out of control. Mulaney’s Chip rolls his eyes at the sight of so much show memorabilia, seeing the pressure for cartoons to rap, and even takes a jab at the theme song cover “nobody asked for” right before they play it.
Bad Guy Peter Pan WORKS to a Point
I will probably take some heat for this but making Peter Pan the bad guy worked wonderfully. After getting booted by Disney for getting too old, Peter becomes old and bitter, and falls into the world of bootleg movie making.
Everybody loves a “fallen angel” villain, and the writers work in the first act of the movie to sufficiently separate the toons from their films. So, by the time we find Peter is the bad guy, the sense of lost childhood and betrayal is diminished (it also plays into the satiric self-awareness of the long-term effects Hollywood has on child actors).
But it stops working when you realize that none of the other characters have aged as badly as he has, and we are left wondering what happened to him specifically.
Two Things Fall Flat
As I stated in the beginning, this movie’s story is 10/10, but after the execution, I have to give the film an overall ranking of 8/10 because of two main things:
1) Kiki Layne’s performance as Ellie.
While I understand that her character is supposed to be an innocent up-and-comer trying to recover after a bad fail, Layne’s acting appeared to me to be awkward and detached. It was the kind of cringe-y half-believable acting one would find in the old Muppet movies that just cannot stand toe to toe with big personalities like Samberg, Mulaney, and JK Simmons. While the other stars volley great dialogue back and forth, Layne’s performance constantly drops the proverbial hackysack, and I’m left waiting for her bit to be over with. (Although, I was impressed by how she handled her fight scene). Otherwise, the casting for this movie was perfect.
2) The extensive use of “Ugly Sonic.”
Anybody who has paid attention to pop culture in the last few years would remember the story of Sonic the Hedgehog. After debuting a unique look to the title character and videogame icon, the film’s original trailer got such bad reviews that the animators had to completely redo the character. Of course, it makes sense in the world of Rescue Rangers that “Ugly Sonic” would be out in the world now and out of the job. In today’s world of hard-core fandoms dedicated to weird niches, it also makes sense that we would find him at Fan Con with Dale (again, SO MUCH makes sense in regard to this movie’s character placement). But, in my opinion, they use him way too much. It just gets too cringe.
Oh, and I’m a little surprised that the writers did not include anything about Chip and Gadget being a thing at some point in time.
Taking on classic, established characters is a dangerous game in today’s world. The Lonely Island team took a big risk in creating this movie, but I am convinced that they absolutely nailed it. None of the trailers did this movie justice! Schaffer and his team found the right balance between sentimental fanfare and modern pop culture cynicism to tell a buddy comedy that produces nothing but laughs and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
I cannot believe how natural the story and character placement feels, which makes it all the more clear to me that this was a movie made by true fans of not just Rescue Rangers, but millennial animation as a whole.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is available for streaming now on Disney+.