Released: 20th May
Seen: 22nd May
The history of the Chip & Dale characters goes all the way back to 1943 when they were mostly known as a pair of adorable creatures who got into over the top scrapes against people who were in some way invading their space, normally Donald Duck. They appeared in about 2 dozen assorted cartoons before the end of the 60s and then were basically relegated to being background stock characters who might be brought up for a quick gag until they were rebooted into the versions most people know them as today, that being Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers which was part of the early run of the Disney Afternoon. Since about the 90s most people think of Chip & Dale as the Rescue Rangers and while they might get brought up here or there, they haven’t really had a major moment to shine since then… until now
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers takes place shortly after the end of season 3 of the hit TV show. Everything was looking up for both Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) until Dale ends up getting wooed away with the promise of his own show, something that ends up leading to the cancellation of the Rescue Rangers and the dissolution of Chip and Dale’s friendship. Cut to 2022 and things are not great. Chip is now an insurance salesman, having grown severely wary of anything to do with Hollywood, while Dale has gotten fancy CGI surgery to keep himself as modern as possible but it hasn’t helped him get many jobs so he mostly just does the convention circuit.
One day Chip (and later Dale) get a call from their old friend Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) who has gotten in deep trouble thanks to his addiction to stinky cheese. He now owes a lot of money to Sweet Pete aka Peter Pan (Will Arnett) who has grown up to be something like a mafia don and if Sweet Pete doesn’t get his money, he’s going to kidnap Monterey Jack, give him elaborate cosmetic surgery and force him to perform in a series of bootleg movies just like he’s done to many other beloved characters before. It’s up to Chip and Dale to work together and put an end to Sweet Pete’s pernicious plundering of protected patented personas and maybe also fix their friendship while they’re at it.
So Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is an absolutely glorious dark batshit masterpiece of a film that has absolutely no right being as great as it is. It starts very cleverly setting up this world we’re going to spend the next hour and a half in where Cartoons are actually just regular films but the cartoon characters are actors and different styles of cartoon just live among us. For example, the main cop is claymation, there’s an entire town made up of characters straight from the Uncanny Valley, 2D and 3D CGI characters interact casually, there’s even Muppets and sock puppets that’re just casually part of this world and it’s so well set up that you quickly adapt to the mixture of visual styles.
If all of that wild combination of animation rang any bells to you then that’s because Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is basically a stealth Who Framed Roger Rabbit? sequel and while it might not be at the same level as that film was (because that film is a legitimate miracle) it’s stunning how it matches the tone and playful ribbing of the genre that Roger Rabbit got so right. Hell, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers might actually be a lot more adult than Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was. Sure that film had horrific images of cartoon genocide and references to real world horrors that were pretty intense, this film just takes Flounder from Little Mermaid and makes him into a victim of human trafficking and every detail they show is disturbing… oh and this is in the first 20-30 minutes of the film, it goes darker and it gets funnier as it does.
The pure commitment to the bit is astounding, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a dark gritty reboot of a beloved cartoon that honors the source material, makes fun of the entire genre of dark gritty reboots while also being jammed full of enough insane references to make even the biggest cynic smile. Some moments are darker than you might expect (oh boy the discourse around making Peter Pan the villain after what happened to the actual voice actor behind Peter Pan is not fun) but somehow, beyond all reason, it works. It just works in this modern era where these kinds of cinematic reboots are more and more common and deserve a good playful poking, and who better to do that than the pair of chipmunks whose career is defined by being rebooted into something more modern back in the 90s.
What genuinely delights about Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is that as dark as it can get, it never takes itself seriously. It’s completely committed to being this insane stupid film but it knows that it’s being stupid and just revels in it. From the stupid distractions to laughing too hard at its own puns, it’s a film that knows exactly what the hell it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a very weird meta film starring chipmunks dressed like Indiana Jones and Magnum PI. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers knows it’s silly to throw in this many cameos in all over the place (Look out for the inevitable “150 cameos you missed in Chip ‘n Dale” videos all over YouTube) but it does them and then throws in a few original characters just to make fun of how stupid the other cameos are.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers has absolutely no right whatsoever being this good, but it’s actually amazing. It’s laugh out loud funny, dark and weird with enough nostalgia appeal to please pretty much anyone but actually doing something fun and interesting with the properties it’s playing with. It’s absolutely insane how this film manages to pull off what it’s trying to do but it does it well. I guess the theme song was right, No, No, it never fails, once they’re involved, somehow whatever’s wrong gets solved.