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Film Review

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Directed by Akiva Schaffer
From: Disney+
Released: 05.20.22
Review by Julian Lytle | May 18, 2022 at 1:00 PM

Basically: A Hollywood buddy cop movie with the power of The Disney Afternoon of the 1990s.

When I first heard about Disney making a Rescue Rangers movie for Disney+, I was low key very worried. Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers was one of my favorite cartoons growing up. In the late 80s and early 90s, I loved how Disney was able to reimagine some of their older characters for a new generation (yet it always confused me Mickey never got this treatment). Having Chip and Dale as private investigators with a team of other small animals living in a world of humans—like in some older cartoons—was clever, even if I didn’t consciously understand the show took the setup of popular nighttime drama detective shows. Coming on TV after the also classic Ducktales, you’d get another fantastic show with one of THE BEST cartoon theme songs ever. 

Side note: Back then, Disney would use all the Disneyness they could and brought real songwriters in to soundtrack their series. If you’ve never heard the full Rescue Rangers theme song with the bridge, please go do that (and listen to Ducktales as well). They don’t make theme songs for anything anymore and we’re lesser for it. 

Photo © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Rescue Rangers worked great even as you got older and understood more jokes—like when you figure out (or have a website tell you) that Chip is dressed as Indiana Jones and Dale as Magnum P.I.; or that the KooKoo Cola episode is so much deeper than you may think (Season 2 episode 14). I can go on about this wonderful show…but this review is about this new movie.  

2022’s Rescue Rangers isn’t a remake just as it’s promoted—it’s a reboot…of sorts. The movie goes with the concept that Rescue Rangers was a TV show and Chip and Dale were the stars. They met in elementary school and moved to L.A. to get into show business. The film flips their classic cartoons and frames them as early parts of their career and it also adds them into well-known shows as extras. Chip and Dale get their big break with Rescue Rangers but, after a misunderstanding with the duo, the show ends. 

It picks up later as Dale (Andy Samberg) is on the con circuit trying to restart his career, while Chip (John Mulaney) is working as an insurance salesman and living a very dull life. The two are brought together when Monterey Jack (somehow voiced by Eric Bana) gets into some trouble (if you’ve ever watched the old show, you know what got him in trouble). This brings the two former friends back together as they try to actually solve the case like their old TV personas, the Rescue Rangers. No one takes them seriously and the film takes them into the animated character underground of its human/cartoon world. 

Photo © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

What really works is what director Akiva Schaffer and screenwriters Dan Gregor and Doug Mand bring to this. They juggle the nostalgia bait at the core of this project and use two influences: 

The first influence references Disney’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit and how it mixes cartoons, animated characters, and even puppets with live-action, framing it as one big “Hollywood.” (In the trailer, when Dale says he got CGI surgery, it’s funny and more than just a one-off joke.) The many cameos from non-Disney-owned characters, along with some very surprising ones, end up being super important to the plot and they’re all worth it. These references ground the story and make it easy to enter the world (even though you’ll continually make that Leonardo DiCaprio pose from Once Upon A Time in Hollywood over and over as you see things you know). 

The second influence is the Shane Black buddy duo-type movie. Rescue Rangers had me sitting here like: “Did they just make an all-ages Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?” Yes, they did. Chip ’n Dale aren’t getting along but they have to work together as they get deeper into trouble while dealing with some bad guys doing terrible things. Rescue Rangers deals with animated characters in a pretty relevant way to real issues in the world, yet it keeps everything light. 

Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle, SMPSP © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

I’m not going to try and name all the voice talent because there are too many but they all do an excellent job. Ok, I’ll name one: J.K. Simmons is wildly funny as Captain Putty, the police captain who’s animated in the style of Gumby but dressed like Commissioner Gordon. KiKi Layne as Ellie Whitfield, a young police detective who’s having a hard time but is also a huge Rescue Rangers fan, also does an excellent job of acting against all these cartoon characters. 

The look of Chip and Dale are good. The animators do a fantastic job with Chip who looks like his classic hand-drawn self while 3D animated (anyone used to playing Naruto or modern Dragonball video games is very used to this style). 

In the End: Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a super surprising movie that’s fun, well-paced, entertaining for all audiences, and honestly too good to just be on a streaming service. This is a theater-worthy film.

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