Remember Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers resurrects the animated/live-action hybrid format with mixed results, but a lot of charm.
It sometimes seems like Hollywood churns out live-action remakes like there’s no tomorrow. They’re frustrating and often unsuccessful, but there is clearly a desire for nostalgia-driven content in entertainment.
Enter Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. The tagline reads “It’s not a reboot. It’s a comeback” and it’s probably the most accurate tagline we’ve heard in a while. Rescue Rangers never attempts to remake or reboot anything, but explores how our own times have changed, as well as our own relationship with a lot of this stuff, and it does it with a lot of humour and warmth.
Chip and Dale, the two adorable chipmunks have fallen out following the cancellation of their show, but they’re forced to team up when a mutual acquaintance goes missing. On their adventure, they encounter friends and foes – both old and new – across different franchises and IPs.
It’s all rather wonderful, even if the gags become repetitive and a little stale. John Mulaney and Andy Samberg do a great job at voicing these two little chipmunks. They’re animated, so to speak, and add a ton of character to Chip and Dale respectively. Seth Rogen is also instantly recognisable as Bob The Warrior Viking, who is described to have “Polar Express eyes.” Rescue Rangers is full of these really insightful jokes, but they don’t really amount to much in the end.
The story hits every single beat and twist you expect it to. The narrative is never elevated and overall, Rescue Rangers feels a little bit of a missed opportunity, even if it does include some really funny and accurate observations about entertainment and animation. But maybe that’s the problem; Rescue Rangers constantly observes, rather than actively subverts the culture its portraying.
In fact, Rescue Rangers works best as a look through animation history. You’ve got characters in 2D and 3D, even in blurry 3D to represent the 3D boom. At times, Rescue Rangers becomes a bit of a “Hey, it’s that character from such and such!”, like a strange game of Where’s Wally. It’s at these moments that the film slows down, almost comes to a halt, but thankfully, Mulaney and Samberg have voice chemistry for days, if that’s a thing.
It’s hard to say whether Rescue Rangers would appeal to a younger audience who isn’t already familiar with the animated characters. A lot of the film runs on pure nostalgia, but it also makes Rescue Rangers feel like a bit of an inside joke, but there’s plenty of modern characters to enjoy too.
The best one, by far, is Ugly Sonic. Yes, the terrifying-looking blue devil from the infamous Sonic The Hedgehog trailer returns, with human teeth and all! There’s plenty of fun cameos, but Ugly Sonic, in all its glory, takes the cake. It demonstrates Disney’s willingness to finally have a bit of a laugh at their own expense and it feels refreshing, even if none of the gags are nearly as damning as they could be.
Rescue Rangers is, ultimately, a very safe film. It’s enjoyable, but also immediately forgettable. It’s a shame, because the charm of the format is strong. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? still remains the king of mixing traditional animation and live-action, but this is an admirable effort too.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is streaming on Disney+ now.