Chip ‘n Dale manages to rescue another retooled property picture into something clever.
Published on May 25, 2022
Rating 3.5 /5
Of all the Disney afternoon properties to tap for a movie, Rescue Rangers feels like the underdog show. Wedged between the popularity of DuckTales and the catchiness of Goof Troop, the series portrayed the chipmunk duo of Chip and Dale as private investigators who went on wild adventures, tackling antagonists three times their size. How do you approach such a show? Do you stick to the formula by going with a standard adventure tale or do you go for the familiar and forgettable retooling for live-action? Thankfully, this film doesn’t stick to these aspects and favors more of a postmodern route. The result is a far better film that manages to find some genuine laughs amid its smearing of intellectual properties.
In this narrative, Chip and Dale are actors who had success with their Rescue Rangers show. When the show ends, so does their friendship. Time passes and the two actors have gone onto much different lives. Dale is still hanging onto the glory days, attending cartoon conventions with other characters, hoping for his big revival. Chip has a more practical life as an insurance salesman, taking small comfort in being an employee of the month and taking care of a dog.
They’re brought back together when discovering that their old co-star Monty Jack has gone missing. Realizing that their pal had some problems with cheese, they decide to investigate who may be behind the disappearance. Chip stresses that they’re not detectives but Dale thinks differently. They will later encounter their other co-stars of Gadget and Zipper who aid in the investigation and fall into their Rescue Rangers routine. As Gadget later notes, their characters on the show and characters in this reality are essentially the same. In other words, it’s both a Rescue Rangers story and a postmodern take on Rescue Rangers as a show.
The world that the Rescue Rangers occupy is pretty much the same deal as Roger Rabbit, especially since Roger Rabbit exists in this picture. Cartoons live alongside human characters in all shapes and sizes, 2D and 3D (though mostly 3D with cel-shaded textures). Much like Roger Rabbit, any character can show up. The rejected Sonic the Hedgehog character can sign autographs while a down-and-out uncanny valley dwarf turns to a life of crime. There are sure to be some comparisons to the recent property-populating picture Space Jam: A New Legacy. The key difference is that the characters appearing in this picture actually seem to fit within the world rather than just standing around to remind you of things that exist. For example, if you’re going to include the 3D model of Baloo from the recent iteration of The Jungle Book, why not make him branch out into being a singer.
While the adventure aspects feel standard, the comedy is spot-on brilliance. Part of that is due to the great casting. John Mulaney and Andy Samberg play Chip and Dale respectively but don’t attempt to replicate the high-pitched voices. Why would they? It’s no coincidence that the film brings up the live-action interpretation of Alvin and the Chipmunks being a lesser film. Consider how that film cast big names who sound nothing like them when their voices are sped up. So while you’re mostly getting Mulaney and Samberg playing themselves, they make for a great dynamic of straight man and goofy man.
The composition of different styles has a freeing and fun nature to this picture. Anything can show up on the screen, from claymation figures to sock puppets. I must admit I did not expect to see Robert Crumb’s Mr. Natural characters pop up. The staging of an aged and bitter Peter Pan (Will Arnett) as the crime leader of a bootleg empire leads to some funny sequences of repurposed characters. There’s even a wee bit of commentary on the nature of reboots and animation styles that bites back in a way one might not expect for a Disney film.
Chip ‘n Dale manages to rescue another retooled property picture into something clever. The writing is rather crisp, the style is immaculate, and the parodies are pretty funny. Among the many tappings of franchises that Disney and so many other studios seem to be getting into with chucking everything they own at the screen, this picture manages to be the stand-out example of a commercialized cavalcade that finds the sweet spots. That daring nature is worth far more than an easy retread of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.