Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a reboot that knows it’s a reboot. Instead of just being a dull live-action/animation remake, it goes very meta. This owes a lot to Who Framed Roger Rabbit where it references Disney and other animated properties to give the Toon world a broader scope. Also like Roger Rabbit, it is a noir detective gumshoe mystery. It may coast on various Easter Egg deep cuts but the vocal performances are solid along with a huge variety of animated styles in one film. Also it singlehandedly redeems the original creepy human teeth design of the live-action Sonic the Hedgehog which is kind of a miracle.
In the late 80s, Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) were flying high on their successful animated show. But 30 years later, they’ve spilt up with Dale having undergone a CGI makeover and working the animation convention circuit while Chip is selling insurance. When their old co-star, Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) is kidnapped, the former friends try to find him. In the seedy underworld of the Uncanny Valley where animation isn’t quite right, they find Sweet Pete (Will Arnett) stealing old Toon characters and converting them into bootleg versions to make cheap knock off movies. With the help of the human Detective Ellie (KiKi Layne) and the stop-motion Captain Putty (J.K. Simmons), the duo search for Jack but the conspiracy may go deeper than Chip and Dale realize.
More than simply a remake, this feels like an heir to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The movie never explicitly states it takes place in the same world of humans and Toons from Roger Rabbit but Roger himself is in the movie so close enough. Tonally, like Roger Rabbit, the movie has a seedy noir underpinning to the Toon world but with Toon characters it can get away with dark jokes. Monterey Jack’s addiction to cheese is played like an old rummy as Bana hollers about needing a fix. When the guys visit a Cheese speakeasy it’s like an opium den where the Muppet proprietor (hilariously voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) promises cheese that will make them float through the roof. J.K. Simmons’ Captain Putty is a grizzled veteran detective who keeps getting things stuck to him because he’s made of silly putty. Simmons’ voice-over is a pitch perfect hardass who also gets loud and crazy.
Chip ‘n Dale juggles multiple characters from various animation worlds and does it better than Space Jam: A New Legacy, mostly because Space Jam 2 was localized entirely around its own Warner Brothers Intellectual Property and came off as a shameless ad. This movie features a blend of different animation styles, the most prominent being Dale still looks like the classic 2D version and Chip has a modernized 3D makeover. The stylistic mash-up gets especially wild with a climactic fight against a giant creature that is about six different animation versions crammed into one. Even one of Sweet Pete’s goons, amusingly voiced by Seth Rogen, is sort of a riff on the weird uncanny valley animation of Beowulf. The craziest non-Disney pull is using the original design of Sonic the Hedgehog from the 2020 movie. When the Sonic trailer first hit in 2019, Sonic looked awful with jarring human teeth and was quickly redesigned, but the original design is here as self-proclaimed Ugly Sonic (Tim Robinson). He can’t go fast, and he still looks terrible (with various close-ups of his freaky mouth that Chip and Dale are hypnotized by), but he comes off very likable.
The film is self-aware of the absurdity of reboots and dredging up old properties to mash-up. In probably the movie’s best meta gag is when Chip sees a billboard for Batman vs. E.T. and later the 7 second clip of that movie is absolutely gold. Dale is on the convention circuit to make a few bucks stuck beside has-beens like Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast and C-list level Avenger Tigra. Sandberg as Dale has a high-spirited delivery as he’s desperate to try to regain his fame while not acknowledging he’s a has-been. Mulaney’s sardonic Chip contrasts nicely with the high-energy Dale. They have lots of funny back and forth and one very weird rap scene where they keep rhyming Dale with whale which befits the film directed by Akiva Schaffer, Sandberg’s comedy rapper partner from The Lonely Island. The movie has a very chaotic vibe which fits with Schaffer’s previous films Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and works for kids and adults. Lane as their Detective buddy is basically there for the visual contrast between the humans and the Toons. Bana’s Jack is one of the original Rescue Rangers and eventually the entire crew gets together so there is a mandatory but fun reboot reunion scene. The baddie Sweet Pete is a grown up version of Peter Pan who has become bitter and greedy as Arnett’s vocal performance is awesomely irritated.
While there has been way too many reboots and remakes that don’t add anything new, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers bucks the trend by being different. It also is one of the few live-action/animation hybrids since Roger Rabbit to feel distinct and weird. Also this has a lot of dopey jokes about remakes which makes for a smartly zany flick.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Starring: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons and KiKi Layne