Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers

Disney invites you on an Easter egg hunt in this reboot

Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is on Disney+ starting May 20

By Diana Beechener

In a world where toons and people live together in harmony, life is still difficult for an animated chipmunk. Dale (Andy Samberg: Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania) is a lonely little critter who wants desperately to impress the people in his elementary school. When his attempts at class clownery go awry, he’s shunned—except for one classmate, Chip (John Mulaney: Big Mouth). 

Thus is born a lifelong friendship. The two are inseparable and even star in a successful TV show (Rescue Rangers) together. But when Dale tries to step away from Chip to get fame on his own, their friendship cracks. Decades later, Dale has had CGI surgery to make him ready for “modern movies” and is doing meet-and-greets at comic cons, desperately clinging to the last vestiges of fame. Chip has moved on entirely, selling insurance and not speaking to Dale.

But when their former co-worker is kidnapped, Chip and Dale come together again in hopes of saving the day. Are the Rescue Rangers ready to take on another big mystery? Or will their bitter past ruin any chance they have of saving their friend? 

Made by a team who clearly watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on a loop when they were kids, Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is extremely funny but ultimately a rather shallow reboot of the beloved kids show. Think of it as Free Guy but with two chipmunks instead of Ryan Reynolds. The script, written by Dan Gregor (Earth to Ned) and Doug Mand (Pretty Smart), is filled with the sort of wry self-referential jokes that will have people in their 30s and 40s cackling. The movie is also quick to point out all the terrible things reboots typically do, like having characters rap, or bringing in cameos, or referencing other bits of nostalgia. 

But pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is rather hollow when you’re the one who stripped him in the first place. Sure enough, Chip and Dale end up rapping, a bunch of Disney cartoons are trotted out for people to recognize, and there is even an ironic theme song. Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is ultimately a film that lives and dies on whether the audience is excited about recognizing the 8,000 references they make. It’s an Easter egg hunt that lasts 90 minutes and occasionally remembers it has a plot. 

The problem Chip ‘N’ Dale suffers from is that it’s built on the idea of appealing to a large audience and not concerned with telling a story. Sure, there’s some funny bits about CGI animation and even a direct shout-out to Roger Rabbit, but the world in which this film operates is slapdash with no rules or stakes. Can toons die? Yes, no, maybe? Who cares, here’s Darkwing Duck. 

The other issue with the film is that with three types of creatures interacting on the screen (CGI critters, 2D critters, and real-world lifeforms), the action is often stilted and seems separated from itself. Eyelines don’t match up and everyone seems to be performing in a void. It’s almost astounding that Roger Rabbit (whose film came out in 1988) interacts with his environment more organically than Chip and Dale. 

Still, the jokes, that were admittedly written with this millennial in mind, land most of the time. And it’s fun to see the cartoons you grew up watching lampooned and modernized—there’s a particularly inspired running gag with Sonic the hedgehog that is easily the highlight of the film. Most of the humor and references will probably go over the heads of little kids, but the film is laden with enough slapstick humor to keep them entertained. 

If you’re in the market for something to watch with your kids, that was clearly not written with them in mind, Chip ‘N’ Dale should be entertaining enough. And if your kids like that movie, why not stay on Disney+ and watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to show them how it’s really done. 

Good Animation * PG * 97 mins.