Hollywood continues to prove that there’s no I.P. that it won’t try to milk to death with an endless parade of sequels, spin-offs, and nostalgia-soaked reboots. Sometimes they come off as the blatant cash grabs that they are (I’m looking at you Home Sweet Home Alone) but in the hands of the right team they can sometimes work pretty well, or potentially even revitalize an older property (21 Jump Street anyone?). In their quest for more content, Disney has decided to reboot Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers as a movie for their Disney+ streaming service. As someone who fondly remembers watching the original animated series as a kid, I was interested but with low expectations. I can happily say that they were truly exceeded as the movie, while not perfect, was far better than it probably needed to be.
We begin by meeting Dale on his first day in a new school, in a world like the one from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that sees humans and cartoon characters co-existing. While optimistic about his chances to make new friends, his goofball nature initially turns off most of his classmates and he finds himself sitting alone at lunch. Chip approaches him though and the two wind up becoming best friends. After school, they head out to Los Angeles to try and make it in Hollywood, working through a series of small roles before landing their big break and getting they own show, the eponymous Rescue Rangers. It’s a massive hit for Disney and runs for 3 seasons, before Dale (Andy Samberg), feeling looked down on by Chip (John Mulaney), tries his hand at a pilot for a new solo show and Rescue Rangers winds up being cancelled.
In the present day, Dale has hada 3D-conversion operation is making money by appearing at fan conventions and dreaming of getting their series rebooted, while Chip is working as an insurance salesman and living alone with his dog (who is significantly larger than he is). The pair haven’t spoken to each other in decades, until their old co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) contacts them asking for help. He tells them that his cheese addiction got him into debt with the ruthless Valley Gang, and as a result they are going to take him away to be bootlegged, a process that involves surgically altering their features just enough to avoid copyright law and forcing them to perform in cheap knockoffs of hit films and shows. They agree to do what they can, but Chip is cold on the idea of working with Dale.
Later that night, they find out that Monty has been kidnapped and so they meet Police Captain Putty (J.K. Simmons) and Officer Ellie Steckler (KiKi Layne) at the scene of the crime. The Captain informs them that there isn’t much they can do, but after revealing that she’s a huge fan, Ellie suggests they try to find their friend on their own. Chip is reluctant at first, until he stumbles onto a clue and agrees to help Dale investigate. So the pair head off on an adventure not too dissimilar from those that made them famous on their TV show.
While the mystery is fairly simple and predictable, it’s handled well and doesn’t shy away from its inherently darker elements. There are referential jokes and sight-gags galore, with writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand (both of How I Met Your Mother) and director Akiva Schaffer (Saturday Night Live, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Hot Rod) recalling the joke-a-minute pace of classic spoofs like Airplane! and The Naked Gun. The primary story arc around Chip and Dale rekindling their friendship is truly where the movie shines though, as it’s impossible to resist watching the 2 adorable pals remembering how much they mean to each other. If you had told me that there would be a new take on these characters I wouldn’t be surprised, but if you had told me that it would be so good, I never would have believed you, but here we are. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout and, nitpicks aside, thought Chip ‘n Dale was actually pretty great, and kind of want to watch it again. ★★★★
Rated PG for Mild Action, and Rude / Suggestive Humor.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor