The Disney Afternoon block is an enduring and endearing facet of Disney history that’s survived to this day. It spawned multiple cross-media projects and reboots, as well as plenty of revivals and cameo references. Now, decades later, we’re seeing a resurgence of ‘90s nostalgia thanks to aging fans. The DuckTales reboot managed to both honour that legacy and welcomes newcomers with open arms. 2022’s Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers film isn’t quite so successful.
John Mulaney and Andy Samberg play Chip and Dale respectively, with Lonely Island alum Akiva Schaffer directing. Rescue Rangers is a vibe: a happy-go-lucky buddy vibe that never really lets up. But it’s also not directly in the spirit of Rescue Rangers, given that Chip and Dale could have been subbed out by any cartoon duo, with a “falling out” backstory thrown in for good measure.
We begin in 1982, with the duo meeting as kids. It’s here that we’re introduced to the idea of “toons” being a part of the real world. Soon enough they’re starring in a hit cartoon (Rescue Rangers is strictly a fake TV show in this universe), and we get the joke that their old ‘80s/’90s voices (by Tress MacNeille and Corey Burton) were put-ons “for the show,” and that Mulaney and Samberg are their real speaking voices.
We get a few minutes of a taping of an episode of the classic show, which amounts to a tease at what could have been; showing the gang all together, bouncing off each other. Fast-forward even further and Chip and Dale and the gang fall apart due to internal strife; and Chip is a modern day insurance salesman. Dale has “CGI surgery,” and attends TV/comic conventions, and enjoys social media.
“Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers is cute, but somewhat of a hollow homage that mostly manages to evoke Pavlovian “remember that!” emotions.”
It’s here that Rescue Rangers starts to become a homogenized adventure romp centering on two friends who drifted apart. Chip is obviously unhappy and has unresolved issues: and Dale longs for the good old days. Fate brings them together, and they need to solve crimes together with the help of the police force. Most of the humor is Chip’s straight man personality bouncing off of Dale’s goofy attitude, which does work to a degree. Sadly, Gadget, Monterey Jack, and Zipper are barely in it.
It’s a weird tone for sure. The plot has a bit of edge to it (the villainous plot is honestly a little edgy by Disney standards), but they don’t really commit to it. Instead the narrative mostly feels like a lay-up for Chip and Dale’s personal relationship, with everyone else along for the ride. And that will work for some people! But I can’t help but feel like there was more potential here, especially in terms of character interactions beyond the core two, and the weight of the “toons” themselves.
As far as the cameos go, the vast majority of them are Paramount-based (with some WB and Hasbro properties thrown in for good measure) or from Disney’s catalog. They’re cameos in the strictest sense, as they barely interact with the main cast (with a few notable exceptions), or with anyone at all. Many of them are relegated to sight gags, don’t talk, or are kind of off to the side for a quick one-liner.
Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers is cute, but somewhat of a hollow homage that mostly manages to evoke Pavlovian “remember that!” emotions. I could go for a sequel without less setup and a less plodding middle, ideally with the gang back together entirely. For now, it’s light afternoon streaming fare at worst.