Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers, the new Disney+ movie based on the original cartoon from the ‘80s, is posturing itself as a spiritual sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, while also being a meta commentary on the constant flow of nostalgia-baiting reboots, sequels, and requels. The problem here inherently stems from the fact that this film was made by Disney, perhaps the biggest offender in spawning these soulless works which exist solely to trigger that memory switch in your head, and not to present you with a clean, un-cynical cinematic or filmic experience. So while there are funny jokes in this film and a fairly engaging plot, it’s difficult to separate the film from the studio that released it.
In the world of this movie, Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) and Dale (voiced by Andy Samberg) were once successful Hollywood actors who made a name together making their show, Rescue Rangers. But years later, after a seemingly permanent falling out, Chip tries to scrape by. After having CGI surgery done so he no longer appears as a hand-drawn chipmunk, but a GGI one, he shows up at conventions to sign autographs and take pictures, while Dale sells insurance. In this world where toons and humans coexist (much like the aforementioned Roger Rabbit), our protagonist chipmunks are well past their glory days. That is, until their friend from the days of their show, Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) is mysteriously captured, and the old pals need to team up once again to find out what happened to him and save him from the horrible fate that’s in front of him.
That horrible fate is to be bootlegged, which entails having his appearance altered so he can be in knockoff movie productions for the rest of his life. Again, these not-so-subtle references to modern Hollywood studios don’t hold much water coming from Disney. Most of it is mined in a way that’s supposed to lampoon what goes on these days, all while it’s sure to continue to line their pockets so they can make a new bootlegged version of one of their beloved classics. It’s a cynical way of going about this, as opposed to the much better done Matrix: Resurrections of last year, which so obviously came from the director’s personal experience, emotions, and love for filmmaking. Chip ’n Dale comes from a desire to capitalize on the hype around this modern subgenre of movies. Even throwing in “Ugly Sonic”, which alludes to the design of the Sonic movie character prior to his redesign, reads more like an attempt to appeal to internet meme culture, instead of using this character to actually say anything. Cynicism peppers every inch of this film.
If there are any positives to be gleaned, it’s that the movie is a decent enough comedy. Akiva Schaffer of The Lonely Island, and director of Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, brings his typical sensibilities to the film, albeit toned down for a more PG-aged audience. There are good gags and one-liners here and there, and of course the mouths of Samberg and Mulaney are more than adept at delivering them. Unfortunately, the fun performances don’t really carry over to KiKi Layne, the main human character that teams up with the chipmunks. Layne is incredible in If Beale Street Could Talk, but here, it just looks like she doesn’t know how to act while imagining mini animated chipmunks. However, the voice talents of others including Will Arnett, J.K. Simmons, and Tim Robinson are unsurprisingly solid.
It should be no surprise that Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers seems to be a hit. It’s fun and funny, and offers enough references and in-jokes to keep people of all ages engaged. It’s just that its main ideas ultimately fall cynically flat.