Well, here it is! The brand new Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers reboot that the internet has been clamouring for since the Ducktales reboot a few years back! Okay, it isn’t, this is a feature-length reimagining/reboot which I have been dreading/looking forwards to reviewing since it was announced. The movie sees Chip and Dale teaming up for the first time since their show was cancelled to solve a real mystery and try and repair their damaged friendship.
There has been a lot of buzz online surrounding this feature since the first trailer dropped. And not in a good way. Most of the discussion online was about how terrible it looked and what a mess it was going to be. Being a fan of the original cartoon I’ll admit that the trailers didn’t leave a good first impression on me. And I had hoped that when I saw the Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers for this review I’d soon learn that those were just bad trailers and that it was far better than the promotional material lead me to believe. And whilst it isn’t as bad as I worried it would be it fails to live up to the promise it often shows.
Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is currently available to stream on Disney+.
STORY – RESCUE RANGERS 2.NO
Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers stars John Mulaney and Andy Samberg as Chip and Dale. Former Saturday morning cartoon stars of the 80s and 90s whose show got cancelled due to a failed career move by Dale. Thirty years later a number of high profile cartoon characters go missing, including Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers co-star Monterey Jack. So it is up to the dynamic duo to head off on a madcap adventure teaming up with human cop Ellie to try and solve the mystery. On the face of it, this Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers movie should be a slamdunk for Disney. As it takes a collection of beloved characters, gives them a movie with a neat premise, and has a handful of decently well-written jokes thrown in here and there. But sadly it isn’t.
As I said in the intro to this review Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers fails to live up to the potential of the concept. The story is rather pedestrian and is never as funny or as interesting as it needs to be. The most interesting parts were the “After they were famous” stuff towards the beginning. And ultimately the film goes everywhere you expect it to go. This isn’t helped by the fact that this is a crime and mystery story where we learn the identity of our main villain and their motivations barely thirty minutes into the film and the story never evolves from there. And the dynamic of Chip and Dale trying to repair their broken relationship never feels like it is given enough time to develop. And like most things in this feature feels rather boilerplate and standard.
META IS BETTER?
Most of the run time of Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is made up of meta and self-referential jokes. Goodness, this movie is an Aladdin’s Cave of references and Easter Eggs to other animated shows and films. And surprisingly not all of them are for Disney properties. With even a few voice acting cameos thrown in for good measure. Which are fun for what they are but oftentimes feel like they are getting in the way of the story rather than adding to it. As to whether you find them funny or not is down to personal taste but watching Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers for this review I found them often more annoying than funny.
Disney has a spotty track record when it comes to meta/self-referential movies like this. Enchanted and Who Framed Roger Rabbit are the best examples of when the company does this well and this movie and Ralph Breaks The Internet are when it doesn’t work. Though thankfully Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers isn’t as soulless as Ralph Breaks The Internet which made reviewing it a world more tolerable. But it is lacking the production value, storytelling, and emotive spark that the other two have.
CHARACTERS & PERFORMANCES – CHIPPING THE DALE
Of all the aspects of Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, the casting and performances are probably the best part of it. Performatively our cast does a commendable job with some rather lacklustre material. There isn’t really a bad performance in the entire picture. As I feel that any ‘lacking’ comes down to said characters either not being properly developed or not really being given much to do. Take for example Ellie the human co-star and Gen X/Millennial fan surrogate. You’d think that her growing up and being a big fan of the Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers would make her an important part of the story, And that would make her a key figure, and someone those who saw the original show could relate to.
Only she isn’t. And not due to KiKi Layne’s performance. But due to the fact she is barely in the thing at all. And her fandom of the duo is only really relevant once in the movie. And even that doesn’t really go anywhere. Mulaney and Samberg are fine in the roles but their talents as performers are let down by the fact that their characters feel rather incomplete.. Chip and Dale don’t really feel much like their original versions from the cartoon nor are they developed enough in this movie to be their own original thing. With the writing of them landing square in the middle. Neither living up to the originals nor giving Mulaney and Samberg anything that they can really go to town with.
As a side note, the motivations for our main villain and why they are the way they are when you know the backstory of the actor who originally played that character and how they ended up in real life feels incredibly tasteless. I don’t think the writers knew this when they wrote this but it is an unfortunate coincidence. Sure, if you don’t know the backstory of the actor in question it won’t ruin your enjoyment of the film but it can be uncomfortable when you are.
On a lighter note, it is nice to see many classic Disney Afternoon characters appearing throughout. Some with their original voice actors. They are all treated fairly and respectfully for the most part. So if you are worried about your favourite getting ruined you needn’t be. But I do feel that their presence in the movie at times feels like it stops the flow and pacing of the story dead in its tracks so they can do a gag. Even when it arguable comes at the cost of the narrative itself.
PACING & CINEMATOGRAPHY – REMEMBER THING?
I’ll be honest with you dear reader, ol’ Chris found the pacing of Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers to be kind of a mess. As stated earlier, we discover who the main villain is and their motivation almost thirty minutes into the movie. This leaves the remaining sixty spent on trying to resolve Chip and Dale’s friendship issues. Which is all standard stuff we have seen before in other films and TV shows. And even then that feels like it is resolved like ten minutes after we learn who the villain is. This leaves us with a movie which feels less like it is trying to tell a coherent narrative and more just trying to run to the next pop culture reference and Easter Egg.
Many of the Easter Eggs are so awkwardly framed that they go from neat background elements to the main focus of the scenes they are in. Sometimes to the detriment of what is happening therein with our heroes. Undermining what could be some neat character development or building some stakes and possible consequences should our heroes fail. I’d hate to say it, but at times it feels like the Easter Eggs are only in the movie to distract us from how very little story there is within the feature at all.
EDITING & SOUND – 2D OR NOT 2D?
Well, I suppose I’ve put it off for long enough. Now is time in the review to talk about the character designs of Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers. I’d say that we were addressing the elephant in the room here. But at this point it feels addressing a whole circus’s worth! I won’t mince my words. I am sorely disappointed by the animation and character design in Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers. It is frequently inconsistent and oftentimes just rather poor. Sometimes the 2D stuff will look really cool and resemble traditional animation styles, other times (and more often than not) it will just look like 3D animation with a filter thrown on it to try and make it look 2D. And then fail to do so.
This will leave us with these weird situations where some of our 2D background characters will look better than our main cast. And to make matters worse Chip (and the other main 2D characters) often just look rather jittery and choppy. Sure, it looks much better than in the trailer but not by much. The pseudo-realistic 3D characters look better. But some like Dale only look nominally better than the many similar-looking characters from the many failed live-action adaptations of classic cartoons over the past thirty or so years. It is really disappointing that Disney of all companies is only able to make characters look only slightly better than that Yogi Bear movie from a decade or so ago.
BUMP THE LAMP
In film and animation circles there is the phrase “Bump the lamp” which comes from the production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In that movie, there is a scene where Roger bumps a lamp which then swings around the room and as a result changes the direction of the lighting and shadows in the scene. When it came to working on this scene the animators painstakingly animated the shadows on Roger and the shadows he would cast on the scene to be as accurate as possible.
That is a level of commitment you don’t see here. As oftentimes I was left with the feeling that if the animators had a little extra time they could have really elevated the animation in Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers. As it, like so many aspects of Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, feels like with a little extra polish, with a little more time spent on the animation, or another couple of pass-throughs of the script we’d have a genuinely fantastic movie. But here and now it is wholly fine and that is just about it. Which is a shame. As whilst Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers wasn’t a nightmare to review. It leaves me wishing that it could have been better. Or at least as good as the flashes of brilliance it has often suggested it could have been.