Rated ‘PG’ for mild action and rude/suggestive humor.
Stars Andy Samberg, John Mulaney, KiKi Layne, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Flula Borg, Dennis Haysbert, Keegan-Michael Key, Tress MacNeille, Tim Robinson, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons, Da’Vone McDonald, Rachel Bloom.
The new Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers isn’t so much a reboot of the 1989-90 cartoon show of the same name as it is a hilarious spoof of the entire animation industry.
A staple of the Disney Afternoon animation block of the late 1980s and early 1990s, “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” repurposed Disney’s mischievous chipmunk duo Chip and Dale as heads of a detective agency that took on animal-based crimes. The pair had been created in 1943 and were featured in 23 animated shorts through 1956, mostly as annoyances to more-prominent Disney characters such as Donald Duck or Pluto.
Produced by the Lonely Island comedy troupe, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers reimagines Chip and Dale as actors who once starred in the “Rescue Rangers” TV show in a Who Framed Roger Rabbit-type world where Toons exist in the live-action world (as do Muppets, puppets and Claymation characters).
Best friends from high school in the 1980s, the pair have gone their separate ways in the 30 years since the show ended. Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) has become an insurance salesman, while Dale (Andy Samberg) is an internet celebrity cashing in on his fleeting fame by touring fan conventions alongside other washed up cartoon characters (including a rather pointed slam of the botched marketing of a recent movie from another studio). Dale’s also undergone a procedure to give him a CGI upgrade — this world’s equivalent to plastic surgery — while Chip remains his traditional 2D appearance.
The pair are reunited by the pleas of their desperate “Rescue Rangers” co-star Monterey Jack, whose cheese addiction has put him in debt with some unsavory characters. When Monterey disappears, Chip and Dale join forces with a local cop (KiKi Layne) to free him from Sweet Pete (Will Arnett), a disgruntled former child star with a reputation for re-animating Toons in order to force them to star in cheap DVD bootleg ripoffs of their own movies. The premise gives director Akiva Schaffer and screenwriters Dan Gregor and Doug Mand plenty of ammunition to skewer the tropes of animated movies and reboots.
The film avoids cameos from any of Disney’s major characters, but, like Roger Rabbit, serves up a ton of casual appearances from well-known minor characters, many of which feature in other studios’ properties. The fun blast of nostalgia will instantly appeal to anyone who grew up in the Disney Afternoon era, but also aren’t a distraction from the main story, which mixes in enough generic archetypal characters so that audiences of any age can appreciate the film without needing to understand any additional history of animation.