Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
Premise: A follow-up to the 1980s cartoon show. Set in a world where cartoons live alongside flesh and blood human beings, Chip and Dale reunite when one of their former Rescue Rangers co-stars disappears.
What Works: Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers was a syndicated cartoon originally produced between 1988 and 1990. The show was part of a popular lineup of Disney cartoons from that time including Darkwing Duck, Talespin, and DuckTales. The 2022 Rescue Rangers film will appeal to children but the movie’s primary audience is adult viewers who grew up watching these cartoons. The show featured the chipmunks Chip and Dale as adventuring detectives who solved crimes that the police couldn’t. The Rescue Rangers movie takes place in a world where the cartoon was just a television show and Chip and Dale are now washed-up actors. Someone is kidnapping cartoon characters and when Chip and Dale’s mutual friend goes missing the former co-stars reunite and become real detectives. This movie owes a lot to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a debt that the filmmakers acknowledge with a cameo. The film works well enough to satisfy both child and adult audiences. It moves along quickly with a steady feed of action and comedy. The film reuses a scenario we’ve seen in a lot of delayed sequels with the legacy characters separated, reuniting, and patching up their differences. Rescue Rangers does that pretty well and the filmmakers bring some imagination to the story world. The animated characters appear as both digital and hand drawn animation and there are lots of gags in the background of the film.
What Doesn’t: The makers of Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers lean into self-aware comedy and the film is overflowing with cameos of animated characters from past and present as well as references to various franchises and intellectual properties. It’s actually impressive just how many connections the filmmakers have crammed into the movie. However, few of these references actually mean anything. Quite often, Rescue Rangers is reminiscent of the terrible parody films directed by Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg during the 2000s. Rescue Rangers is funnier than any of those movies but the humor is frequently a comedy of recognition. Quite often the whole joke is recognizing the reference. Unlike The LEGO Movie or Wreck It Ralph or even Free Guy which, to varying degrees, used pop culture references in a way that was relevant to the story and the characters, the references of Rescue Rangers are often for their own sake and play as an advertisement for Disney’s vast library of intellectual properties.
DVD extras: On Disney+.
Bottom Line: Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers is primarily designed to service the nostalgia of the Millennial audience and viewers who grew up watching the cartoon will find it does that. Rescue Rangers is unlikely to age very well but it will serve as an enjoyable family movie.
Episode: #904 (June 5, 2022)