Disney Plus has had a streak of releasing films that should have premiered in theaters — most notably, they’ve held Pixar’s last few films hostage on the platform — with the latest film to fit this bill being “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers.”
“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” was an animated Disney show that ran in the 1990s as part of the Disney Afternoon, and like many animated shows from this era, it was pretty good, but I have no doubt that if I were to go back and watch it as an adult, I’d find it corny and I’m not sure if all of it would hold up. It was a product of its time and made for kids, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if a direct reboot of the show would work in 2022. It was perfectly suited for a Saturday-morning cartoon format, but cartoons have gotten much more complex since the ’90s.
Thankfully, the filmmakers didn’t do that with this movie, which picks up decades later. In the context of this universe — which many have speculated is the same universe as “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” due to the fact that Roger Rabbit cameos in this film, and the fact that the Dip substance featured in that film makes an appearance — “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” is a TV show, with its cast members Chip (John Mulaney), Dale (Andy Samberg), Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), Zipper (Dennis Haysbert) and Gadget (Tress MacNeille) all being actors.
The film takes place in the present day, with the Rescue Rangers show long canceled. Chip sells insurance and lives alone with his dog, while Dale gets by through conventions and connecting with Rescue Rangers fans through social media. Gadget and Zipper are married and have had many children, and aren’t in most of the film. The plot gets kicked off when Monterey Jack calls Chip and Dale for help, as he’s fallen into debt with Sweet Pete (Will Arnett), a middle-aged Peter Pan who runs a bootleg movie studio he founded after Disney kicked him to the curb after he grew up. Monty eventually gets kidnapped by Sweet Pete, leaving Chip and Dale to put aside their differences to team up and save him before he gets “bootlegged” (surgically modified to get around copyright laws and forced to star in Pete’s terrible bootleg films).
The most impressive thing about this film is its lively world that is full of animation references and cameos. Disney used parody law to include characters they didn’t own the rights to, which also gives the film’s world a unique lived-in feeling as you really get a sense that all these characters you’ve come to love from other shows and movies are just people here trying to make ends meet. Ugly Sonic (Tim Robinson) is probably the most notable of the film’s cameos, as it pokes fun at the horrible original design of Sonic the Hedgehog in his 2020 feature film.
Mulaney and Samberg are fine as Chip and Dale, though I’m generally not a fan at giving celebrities feature voice acting roles, and I still think that professional voice actors would have been a much better fit. The film’s plot is also fine, if a little predictable, though I do think Sweet Pete really works as a villain. Many have pointed out how he draws parallels to how Hollywood treated real-life Peter Pan actor Bobby Driscoll, and I think that’s why he works as a sympathetic villain, but it does prompt a larger conversation about Driscoll and how child actors are treated in general.
My biggest complaint is that I feel like the film was too short, and its world flits by a little too fast. The film feels like it never gives itself time to breathe, and could have benefitted from an extra 20-30 minutes to get viewers acclimated to its richly-detailed setting.
Overall, this is a very good watch that succeeds in being a modern day version of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” even if it doesn’t quite reach the same heights as that film, and the lines between live action and animation isn’t as pronounced or important.
“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” gets an 8.5/10