The Latest Adventure of our Favorite Rescue Rangers Hits Disney+ Friday!
I’ve been looking forward to Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, since I first heard of a script in development that started with a bit at a Comic Con, that had an post-prime out of work Dale signing at a table next to Erik Estrada of C.H.I.P.S fame. Keep in mind, not only are these chipmunks probably my favorite Disney characters, but I was all in for this kind of meta, nostalgic Disney weirdness. When the film trickled into production things got even more intriguing, with Akiva Schaffer, one of the members of the Lonely Island signing on to direct with John Mulaney voicing Chip and Andy Samberg as Dale.The film hits Disney+ this Friday and keeps that meta approach, but also delivers a spiritual sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this time not only incorporating hand drawn Toons, but CGI characters, who bring their own flavor and comedy to this story.
After a brief behind the music-eque recap on the history of the rise of Rescue Rangers, and its cancellation shortly after Dale tried to launch his own solo vehicle. The film then fast forwards to the present day in a world where toons and humans coexist and we catch up to our favorite chipmunks who haven’t spoken since the show ended. Chip is working 9–5 selling insurance, while Dale is doing the con circuit, while trying to get a reboot of Rescue Rangers going. It’s Monterey Jack who brings the pair back together, when he falls into debt with his stinky cheese habit with “Sweet Pete”, an older, rounder, Peter Pan who runs a gang notorious in Toon Circles for kidnapping famous toons and “bootlegging” them. What this entails is the character is surgically modified, just enough, to avoid copyright and then shipped off to make knock offs of their previous properties. You know like the “mockbusters” you find in the dollar bin at Walmart or The Dollar Tree. It’s that grim fate that puts a razor sharp finish on a script that is overflowing with blink and you miss nostalgic laughs and references.
To highlight the difference between the toons on TV, and toons in the real world, they are animated here in an almost AI motion capture look that gives the uncanny feeling of rotoscoping. This adds a new dynamic visually to the characters to further differentiate the real world from the animated one. I don’t want to spoil too much here story-wise, except to say this film surprisingly toes a dangerous line given its PG status and its availability on Disney+ of giving both the adults and children plenty of laughs. While the breezy film (97 minute) doesn’t dig quite as deep or get as terrifyingly bleak as Roger Rabbit, it still has something to say about nostalgia and friendship, doing so in a way that may just surprise you. That being said, it does all this while employing an intellectual property cameo list that would make the Lego Movie envious.
I laughed probably harder than I thought I would watching a film about the Rescue Rangers, and the film’s take on the relationship troubles of the titular chipmunks was surprisingly charming. It was a poppy, entertaining and unexpected take on the 90s property and an assurance that Disney isn’t too precious with their Crown Jewels. While I would have been interested in a bit more world building in the film, I felt that was kept just out of the peripheral for the younger audience members, although we do briefly glimpse it here and there. Rescue Rangers is one of those films that’s either going to hit hard or vanish without a trace, because the cut here is at times too deep. I am just hoping there’s plenty of folks like me who grew up loving the Disney Afternoon block and these characters and will tune in, because I want more of this please!
Also: For those interested, there is a more faithful update on Chip ‘n Dale, on Disney+ called Chip ‘n Dale’s Park Life. This is an actual update of the Disney short version of the chipmunks that while aimed at kids has that same sense of weird and wonderful that the newer Mickey Mouse cartoons have and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.