A kid’s movie about Hollywood as a boulevard of broken dreams doesn’t exactly scream Disney, but “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” a new live action, cartoon hybrid starring John Mulaney and Andy Samberg in the title roles, and now streaming on Dinsey+, is exactly that.
Except it’s WAY funnier than I just made it sound.
Set in Los Angeles, this is the tale of anthropomorphic chipmunks Chip (Mulaney) and Dale (Samberg). Once tight pals and big television stars, relative to their tiny size, they are now has-beens, relegated to the delete bin of popular culture. “We were living the dream,” says Dale. “Dancing the Roger Rabbit, with Roger Rabbit.”
Dale sticks it out in show biz and with some CGI surgery—i.e. plastic surgery in toon world—is now a photorealistic computer-animation version of himself chasing glory on the oldies convention circuit, while Chip gave up his Hollywood dream and makes ends meet by selling insurance.
Worst of all, they’re estranged and haven’t spoken in years. It takes a wild story from their old “Rescue Rangers” co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) about missing animated characters, possibly kidnapped by Sweet Pete (Will Arnett), a middle-aged, paunchy version of Peter Pan, to bring them back together.
When Monterey disappears, Chip ‘n Dale use the sleuthing lessons they learned on “Rescue Rangers” and are drawn into the seedy underworld of Uncanny Valley where the baddies come in all styles—hand drawn, computer generated, claymation, puppets—Muppet fights are a daily occurrence and bootleggers threatens the toons’ lives and careers.
“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” is a multiverse of toontastic fun. In a wild mix n’ match, characters from movies like “The Little Mermaid” and “My Little Pony” to “South Park” and “The Jungle Book” clash and collide. There’s even Ugly Sonic, the original Sonic the Hedgehog design with human teeth.
The array of characters aside, there are loads of in-jokes for animaniacs to enjoy. A computer-generated Viking (Seth Rogen) is described as having, “those Polar Express eyes,” and director Akiva Schaffer crams the screen with various styles of animation that irreverently pays tribute to, and pokes fun at, these beloved characters who have fallen on hard times.
A riff on “The Happytime Murders,” which brought the Muppets into a crime-ridden, R-rated world, and the Toontown antics of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” is ripe with sight gags and deep laughs that will likely be appreciated more by parents than kids. Once again, my semi-annual reminder that simply because a movie is on Disney+, doesn’t mean it is for the entire family. There are good messages for kids about the importance of friendship but they are tempered by some adult humour and mild language.