It was only a few years ago that I received an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando to receive an award. While the trip was only for a quick weekend, it offered me an opportunity for my very first trip to Disney World limited to a single afternoon. With only a few hours to pack in as much of the Disney magic as I could, I set my sights on tracking down as much childhood nostalgia as I could including mandatory stops to visit Disney's Country Bears (Yes, I still love them!) and my beloved Chip n' Dale.
I was thrilled to find both sets of characters and I left my afternoon at Disney one happy guy.
The magic was most certainly real.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Disney was digging deep into its animated archive to bring back Chip n' Dale for this contemporary full-length feature, a Who Framed Roger Rabbit styled animation meets real life motion picture called Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers.
I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I am.
Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers isn't an awful film. Still, I hated every minute of it.
Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers exists in a world where the 80's series upon which this is VERY loosely based was a real show featuring childhood friends turned inseparable Hollywood stars Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg). However, the inseparables separate when Dale is offered a promising television pilot and the two part ways. However, the pilot doesn't go quite as planned and eventually Dale is relegated to the nostalgia convention circuit while Chip leaves Hollywood altogether. Fast forward thirty years later and the two are forced to come together again when a former co-star (Eric Bana) disappears and they unite in an effort to, well, rescue him.
There's a promising film that exists somewhere in this animated mishmash that hints at a creativity it never lives into. Directed by Akiva Schaffer, Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers feels like it wants to embrace the stylishness of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the quirk of Lonely Island, and the exhausting Hollywood trend toward tossing in an abundance of cameos, cameos of cameos, and more cameos within the cameos of cameos.
It's all silly. It's all stupid. It's all unnecessary.
What Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers lacks is an actual sense of the characters we love - Chip n' Dale. When a film starts off by referencing those other Chippendales, you know you're in for 90 minutes of cuties wink n' nod scenes with nothing resembling a narrative thread and nary a sense of nostalgia.
I wanted Chip n' Dale. I got a traditionally animated Chip and, eventually, a CGI'd Dale doing whatever it takes to stay relevant in Hollywood.
I know that times change. I get it. I can appreciate it. I really, really can. However, there are some clever ideas here that are never given room to grow. It's as if nobody actually trusts that people will want to see Chip n' Dale and so we get a myriad of other characters and pop culture reference points, animated and live-action, and it's all simply dizzying and pointless.
Have I mentioned that I hated every minute of Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers?
I did. I really, really did.
There's a promising film here. Mulaney and Samberg have a chemistry that is fun to watch and there are moments when Dan Gregor's script serves up the heart, gentle humor, and nostalgia that we're expecting from a Chip n' Dale flick.
But then, the film downward spirals into an animated sea of familiarity and ooh-ahh cameos that will elicit momentary smiles but nothing that lasts.
Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers is the most frustrating kind of failure because it's a film where you can see its potential just enough to make you wish for the film that it could have been. Instead, Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers is a lazy effort with a story that never engages and a creatively imagined visual palette that never contributes to our appreciation for the film. Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers could have been Who Framed Roger Rabbit for a new generation. Instead, Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers only makes us long for the mastery of word and image that was Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
In the end, the only one who really needs rescuing in Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers is the audience.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic