Chip N' Dales Rescue Rangers
Here’s a movie where live action actors go to school with traditional and 3-D animated characters. Animated cars can talk, you can meet your favorite toon star in person, and where in a big bustling human city there are also smaller apartment buildings to house chipmunks.
“Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers” is one of quite a few “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” imitators and in a way it works for younger viewers who aren’t quite ready for “Roger Rabbit’s” boldness just yet. And parents get something too; an unexpectedly smart showbiz satire looking at remakes, reboots, IP mashups, and other painfully “hip” updates Hollywood has tried to use in order to cash in on once beloved characters.
The film comes from the Lonely Island comedy trio, of which Andy Samberg is its poster boy. He also voices Dale, who along with John Mulaney’s Chip meet in grade school and become fast friends, moving to California to become a TV crime fighting group before Dale gets tired of being second fiddle and decides to start a failed solo career.
There are very funny touches here. A convention room featuring old, obsolete cartoons has some good gags, especially hilarious is an old version of a recently popular franchise character, and a joke about getting CGI upgrades was always there- this was just clever enough to make it. For reference, Dale got the upgrade while Chip remains traditionally animated.
Chip N’ Dale’s mouse friend Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) has also fallen on hard times- now so hooked on the cheese that it’s become a full fledged addiction. When he goes missing, a supposed victim of bootlegging, and the detective assigned to the case (J.K. Simmons, voicing a grouchy Gumby knockoff) has no clues, Chip and Dale decide to put their differences aside and team up with a human police officer (Kiki Layne) in order to find him.
What follows is a series of episodic vignettes- funny in the way they portray nefarious underworlds buried beneath a sea of joyous animation, or poke fun at animation styles that just never worked (motion capture takes some lumps here). Peter Pan (Will Arnett) as a grungy bootlegger is also kind of amusing.
For the kids the movie offers chases and close calls and the characters of Chip and Dale have an enjoyable friendship that works well enough. For parents, it might be a little sad to see characters they grew up with on Disney Afternoon reduced to reality show detectives but it fits the bill for nostalgia and movie callbacks and jokes at the expense of updating recent IP’s (making old cartoons hipper by rapping for example) should lead to a lot of enjoyment and laughs.
As a watcher of the old show there is a nagging feeling that more could have been done to honor that: a better villain and mystery and more time for Rescue Rangers Gadget and Zipper could have helped. Once the gags and the seamless world-blending start to wan, the story isn’t much to hold attention. Thankfully the film is also short, and mostly a very good time.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5