Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers Review: Disney gets this reboot right
Disney has been bringing their classic characters and franchises back in live action form for over the last decade and while many of them have been box-office successes, they haven’t exactly thrilled every fan and have been generally seen as subpar rehashes. Their latest reboot of Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is far from being subpar or just a standard reboot though.
Rather than just have Chip n’ Dale be an extended remastered version of a Rescue Rangers episode, the reboot takes inspiration from a cult classic animated flick, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Part of what made Roger Rabbit so special is seeing a lot of iconic animated characters on-screen together making it feel like a pure celebration of animation. I mean, we literally got a comedy bit between Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny and a musical battle between Donald and Daffy Duck. Chip n’ Dale may not have something that substantial, but it does feature a lot of great nods, winks, and cameos that not only make it a great spiritual successor to Roger Rabbit, but also a great showing of Disney loosening its reigns.
In between all the moments of a disillusioned Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) and Dale (voiced by Andy Samberg) coming back together thirty years later to solve a crime involving bootlegged cartoons are some amazing cameos and nods to tons of animated characters. It’s no surprise to see a ton of different generational Disney characters floating around the screen or even Disney poking fun at its move to more realistic live action depictions through Dale’s 3D makeover or some cameos, but Disney clearly went all out in bringing in some big, unexpected cameos and it pays off immensely. Literally nothing is off the tables with Chip n’ Dale and it was a blast to see characters like Batman, E.T., and yes, even that atrocious looking Sonic the Hedgehog from the early trailers of the Sonic movies, but it was even more of a treat to see some adult cartoons represented.
References to South Park, Rick and Morty, and even Beavis and Butthead can be found, and it shows a different side to Disney being more open to straying away from its overly family-friendly image. Seriously, I thought we’d never see the day where South Park characters would ever be in the same room as Disney characters, but it happens here and it’s one of the many impressive ways Disney and the film’s crew spare no expense in having Chip n’ Dale be an inclusive and engaging celebration of animation. It’s even more fun to see some of the hilarious bootleg creations of iconic animated characters and the darker shades to the world and comedy also let Chip n’ Dale have a cynicism every generation can enjoy.
The jokes and references generally come with a more adult snark and tone that makes for some great unexpected dark humor and the whole concept and execution of characters becoming bootleg versions has some dark elements that feel reminiscent to toons being destroyed in Roger Rabbit. Even the places and situations Chip and Dale find themselves in, like an area where cutesy cartoons are a front for underground criminal activity or an uncanny valley where gross looking CG characters roam, have these darker, more adult pieces that give this reboot a good edge. It’s really nice seeing Disney have no qualms exploring an edgier side of itself or some of its darker roots, even if it can be problematic at times.
The idea of criminal activity around bootleg sequels and reboots is perfectly fitting for how it’s made Disney so protective of its movies and characters. For Rescue Rangers fans, there are plenty of nods and homages to the original cartoon and its history. Plus, Chip and Dale’s personal story of drifting apart and coming back together feels right at home for their journey in Disney and is something fans will easily love. The only issue, a big one, comes from the film’s antagonist Sweet Pete, who is an older Peter Pan who fell into a life of crime after being dumped by Disney when he got older. His backstory and motivations are actually really interesting, but sadly connect to a real-life tragedy with Peter Pan’s original voice actor Bobby Driscoll, who was also supposedly dumped by Disney when he got acne and fell into a life of drugs and homelessness. It’s a connection that feels exploited in this film because of how it’s utilized and rather than it feel like Disney owning up to its past, it feels like it’s using it for writing material, and it doesn’t sit well with me.
Aside from some problematic character writing, the overall story of Chip n’ Dale is simply solid. The central arc for Chip and Dale’s dynamic is heartwarming and comical, especially with Mulaney and Samberg’s great chemistry. While some of the side characters have some thin writing, like human detective Ellie (Kiki Layne), most of them remain memorable through their funny performances as well as some amazing character designs that deepen this film’s celebration of animation.
Like the cameos and nods, no expense is spared in utilizing different animation styles for some great representation in the animation industry making for some delightful pokes at other films and some visual hilarity. It’s always great when the film plays around with the size differences of things for some hilarious visual gags and it’s impressive to see these different animation styles in action, especially the Gumby-inspired design of Chief Putty (voiced by J.K. Simmons). Most importantly though, the way that the original Rescue Rangers series and characters play a relevant role in the story will easily please fans and makes this reboot earn its place and possibly provide enough for more.
Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers might have a few issues that are tough to look past, but it is ultimately the best remake/reboot by far from Disney thanks to the incredible vision for the film’s world and story that’s filled with amazing nods to animation and incredible heart largely in part to its easily loveable dynamic chipmunk duo. It is the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? spiritual successor we didn’t know we needed but are thrilled to have.