Cert – Recommended ages 9+, Run-time – 1 hour 37 minutes, Director – Akiva Schaffer
Faded from the limelight, former duo Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) reteam to track down their kidnapped co-star, Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), before he’s reanimated to star in bad knock-off movies.
Perhaps with its landing directly on Disney+ you would expect a Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers movie to be a potential nostalgia trip for those who grew up watching Disney’s chipmunk duo and their assorted team growing up. However, instead of travelling down initial mystery lines we find the team, particularly the titular pairing, broken up and pursuing their own lives and projects. After a falling out, Chip (John Mulaney) now works as an insurance salesman, while, thanks to new surgery, the CG-ified Dale (Andy Samberg) is constantly attempting to cash in on his former fame at fan conventions, to little success when sharing a stall near the likes of Ugly Sonic (Tim Robinson) – a character who appears much more than you would expect with humorous effect. However, when their old co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) is kidnapped the pair find themselves reteaming to track him down, and save him from being reanimated and shipped off to star in cheap, direct-to-DVD Disney rip-offs.
Yet, before much of the adventure kicks off we spend plenty of time exploring the cartoon-live-action world in which the events unfold. From stop-motion and standard 2d animation to CG and references to motion capture there are plenty of different animation styles on display. While some fear of clashing, at least between the two styles that make up Chip and Dale, may have arose from the trailers, with the way we’re introduced to the world and shown all the different varieties that make it up worries are soon removed. Yet, perhaps the element which draws you in most is the hugely self-aware nature that the film takes. Not just in referencing as many different products as it can, featuring an insane amount of cameos (and not just from Disney products, Randy from South Park makes a brief appearance), but in forming a generally meta picture that could perhaps give the Animaniacs a run for their money.
From Squidward having a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame to the general concept of the consequences of encountering the villains of the piece there’s plenty of meta references and occasional fun-poking within this feature length outing for the central pair. There’s a risk, as with anything that runs with this kind of idea, that things might get a bit too much. It might feel like the only form of substance within the world. However, in the case of this film the references and images feel more a part of the world than anything else. Yes, they don’t quite act as background gags, at least not with the prominence with which a number appear on screen, but, especially as the film reaches its second half, they don’t act as the core focus and source of content. While things do slightly slow down as the plot is brought more into focus at the start of the second half gradually some form of blend between the two points is found and there’s an enjoyable enough flow to the film while still managing to provide a number of chuckles along the way.
Something like this does certainly feel unexpected from Disney, especially when it comes to all the aforementioned non-Disney titles mentioned and seen throughout. It doesn’t quite bring about an overall fresh feel, but it undeniably clicks and makes for enjoyable viewing. Not just for spotting what you recognise or various hidden jokes, but simply because it works as part of the world that the film has created. One in which Chip and Dale have slightly faded from stardom, although one consistently looks for new opportunities of a reboot. This appears to work fairly well for this version of these two characters, and the ‘rescue ranger’ mission that unfolds over the short 97 minute run-time, particularly in the second half. Much of the amusement coming from the fact that the meta elements that are made a part of the narrative are blended well so that they actually fit and feel like a proper part of the piece instead of being crowbarred in for another joke – often not overly being played for laughs at a specific point in time. Although, perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is that as a whole it actually works! Generally things go rather well together within this updated outing for the Rescue Rangers, much like the new take on the pairing of Chip and Dale.
By not focusing directly on the meta moments and references, and blending some in with the narrative Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers creates an enjoyable set of laughs and surprises – both in terms of references and narrative elements – throughout its fairly easy run-time.