Review of “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers”
As a critic – or even just a serious movie buff – it’s important to understand your own biases when reviewing a movie. You don’t have to agree with a post to appreciate its artistry and vice versa: a good post can’t be allowed to deny shoddy filmmaking, no matter how badly you want it to be. God be undead.
I talk about it because Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers presents a dilemma. Did I enjoy the animated feature starring my childhood chipmunk buddies and hosted by the guys from Lonely Island, the comedic trio that rose to prominence in their twenties, because it resonated so strongly with my own personal background? Or is it really good cinema that just happens to align myself with so many of my ideals?
I ask because I have rarely felt so nakedly flattered by a major Hollywood production. After all, Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers is a movie that not only activates many nostalgia centers in my limb berry ravaged cerebral cortex, but it also makes a strong case for corporate intellectual property rights (the political issue I care about most, aside from of all “the integrity of our elections and the stability of our democracy” thing) and mocks labor activists (who are outraged by the film’s villain, more of which in a moment) while featuring a guy (John Mulaney) who Eternal Outrage Twitter took to the stake after inviting the man the most talented in stand-up (Dave Chappelle) to open a show for him.
It’s hard to imagine a film more suited to my interests, that’s what I’m saying. So, caveat emptor and all that. But I enjoyed it Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers—a film that somewhat resembles Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the modern set – and I imagine you might also enjoy it even if you’re not as overtly reactionary as your humble narrator.
Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers posits a universe in which animated characters of all persuasions (traditional 2D, computer-animated 3D, Claymation, etc.) live around, interact with, and work for humans (again, the Roger Rabbit of all that). Chip (Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) are the Chip and Dale of the late 1980s and early 1990s cartoon show, that Disney Channel Eve that played afternoons roughly at the same time as duck tales and dark duck. Or rather, Chip and Dale are the chipmunk actors who starred on this show. We see how they meet, find success, and then grow apart.
Chip exits showbiz after their program is canceled, while Dale tries to make money on the nostalgia circuit, working festival booths opposite the ugly, rejected version of Sonic the Hedgehog (Tim Robinson), Lumiere (Jeff Bennett), and Paul Rudd (Paul Rudd). After their old pal Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) goes missing, Chip and Dale must put aside their differences to save him from the clutches of Sweet Pete (Will Arnett) and his gang.
The first thing you notice when looking Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers is the simple density of reference points in the image. This isn’t movie content to wallow in Disney’s (important) IP cabinet; it’s one that borrows from every animation studio imaginable, almost grabbing willy-nilly as it goes. Just as a quick example: at one point our heroes are running past a bench that has the face of a Butthead on it (like in Beavis and) who we see is a senator running for re-election on an anti-smuggling platform (movies, not alcohol). It’s a snap and you’ll miss it, but it’s worth noting just because of the amount of work that undoubtedly went into securing this appearance by the character (Paramount-owned, I think?). No wonder Bob Iger had to personally sign on the script before it goes into production.
However, the references are more than mere reminiscences; they are an integral part of the plot. Sweet Pete is actually Peter Pan, all grown up: paunchy, middle-aged, bald, and bitter about his ejection from the Magic Kingdom years ago by the House of Mouse. He decided to kidnap cartoons, modify them slightly and produce illegal knock-offs of classics like Aladdin earn money fast without clearing copyrights.
Others noticed it, but it’s a extremely dark way of approaching the whole issue of “employees versus management”, given the the real fate of Bobby Driscoll– the original voice of Peter Pan – deceased after years of drug addiction, unloved and unknown, after his usefulness for Disney ended. Matter of taste aside, the idea of the boy who doesn’t want to grow up wallowing in the mire of memory turning beloved memories into toys has more than a little resonance, given that Tic and Tac is sandwiched on the release schedule between the Marvel movies and a few weeks before Ewan McGregor returns as Obi-Wan elsewhere on the Disney+ dial.
Speaking of: I’m a bit surprised that this movie went straight to streaming, given the absolute scarcity of kids’ movies in theaters right now. I don’t know if it would have been a huge hit, but it would have gotten great word of mouth from parents who want a little more of the movies they’re forced to watch with their kids, and there’s not been a single kid-friendly outing in a month. Yes The villains can push up to 100 million dollars in the domestic market, I see no reason Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers couldn’t do the same.