Disney’s Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers is a fast-moving adventure with lighthearted dollops of meta humour – here’s our review.
If you’ve been to see a Marvel movie at the cinema in the last year or so, you may well be familiar with the bizarre phenomenon of the mid-film applause break. When a character from the past flies in or an actor shows up for a universe-bending cameo, it is becoming fairly common for a round of applause to pass through the audience – a gesture of recognition as much as a sincere expression of joy. I mention this not to criticise anyone for doing it, but simply to note that if you were to apply that to Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, you’d scarcely pause for a second and leave the cinema with sore hands. This is something far more special than a throwaway Disney+ film.
It’s fair to say that Rescue Rangers wasn’t a movie that was on many people’s radars until its first trailer arrived, suggesting something wittier and more ambitious than anyone could’ve expected – a crossover event traversing the Disney slate of characters, and plenty more beyond that. The gag-packed script was penned by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, who worked on both How I Met Your Mother and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for TV and so have a hell of a comedic pedigree. They also wrote Dolittle, but the less said about that one the better. The director’s chair, meanwhile, is occupied by The Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer, whose last feature film project was Popstar Never Stop Never Stopping – almost certainly the funniest movie of the last decade.
The story picks up the characters of Chip ‘n Dale, three decades after their TV show came to an end and living in a universe in which live-action characters and cartoons of various styles exist alongside each other without anyone commenting on the strangeness of that as a concept. Ever the sensible one of the duo, Chip (John Mulaney) now sells insurance, while Dale (Andy Samberg) has paid for an expensive CGI makeover and tries to make cash on the fan convention circuit.
They become aware of a criminal gang, led by Will Arnett’s mobster Sweet Pete, which is kidnapping famous cartoons and subjecting them to the genuinely horrible-sounding cosmetic procedure of “bootlegging” – changing their appearance so they can star in copyright-avoiding knock-off movies. This discovery sends the characters off on a detective journey, in which they seek to reconcile their differences after the spat that brought their TV careers to an end, while also saving an old friend from Pete’s clutches.
It’s a fast-moving adventure story that delivers enormous dollops of meta humour while also cartwheeling with self-aware elan through the tropes of the detective tale. There’s enough animated animal action to keep the youngest audiences happy, but this is also a clear successor to the likes of The Lego Movie – crediting kids with enough intelligence to grasp jokes with more to them than farts and falling over.
The rat-a-tat script’s enviable gag rate is carried by the comedic energy of the central duo, with Samberg in particular cementing his credentials as one of Hollywood’s best delivery systems for thick-and-fast laugh lines. It’s a terrific supporting ensemble too, with If Beale Street Could Talk‘s KiKi Layne taking the lead human role as a detective who helps the protagonists, Arnett giving great crook and Seth Rogen doing stellar work as a motion-capture viking with vacant “Polar Express eyes”. Rogen’s character, in particular, gets a hell of a pay-off gag in the third act.
Rescue Rangers was originally announced back in 2014 and was then conceived as something a bit more generic, telling the origin story of Chip ‘n Dale. Wisely, this movie crams all of that into an opening voice-over segment in order to dive right into its present day narrative. It’s a film packed to bursting with cameos and references ranging from new to nostalgic, with the pause button on Disney+ accounts set to get a major workout from those hoping to spot every detail packed into the background. Boundaries between studios and various intellectual property walled gardens crumble to create a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for our era of pure cultural saturation. If you thought the cameos in Spider-Man and Doctor Strange were bonkers, Chip ‘n Dale have a beer for you to hold.
There’s a sense of sheer joy at the heart of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers that can’t be denied. It’s like Disney let a pair of writers and a director loose with the biggest possible cultural toy box and just allowed them to go utterly wild, like bulls run amok in a china shop of desperately guarded franchises and characters. Crucially, all involved get the tone absolutely right. This doesn’t feel like a corporate cash-in designed to set up future projects or flog colourful lunchboxes. It’s an exuberant, chaotic love letter to a century of big screen storytelling, inside and outside of the Mouse House. There’s even a disturbing, violent anecdote involving Peppa Pig and the critters from Paw Patrol. What more could you want?
Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers is available to stream on Disney+ from 20th May.
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