This review originally appeared in the North Texas e-News.
When thinking through all the different franchises and properties Disney could give a new animated film to, Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers doesn’t exactly top the list. Sure, it was a popular enough cartoon in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Unlike other classic Disney animated properties like DuckTales though, it hasn’t been in regular rotation in the 2000s either.
Fortunately, that lack of recent popularity really works to Disney’s advantage here. It makes Rescue Rangers a perfect vehicle for a nostalgia-driven, cameo-fueled joyride that feels like it’s meant just as much for adults who grew up with the original show, if not more, than it is for kids.
Rescue Rangers strongest selling point is how fearless it is in its cameos and obscure references. It’s clearly designed with an eye for social media with a number of hilarious sight gags and off-the-wall references practically begging to go viral.
Rescue Rangers finds a way to pack those kinds of jokes so tightly into the movie that the plot itself almost struggles to breathe on its own. It’s perhaps not surprising that the story itself is almost painfully straightforward then.
It’s the typical movie about former best friends who experienced a falling out with one another only to reunite years later in the name of a mutual cause. Moviegoers have heard it a hundred times by now, and Rescue Rangers isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel. In this case, Chip and Dale must reunite decades after Hollywood showbusiness drama caused them to split up in order to save their former Rescue Rangers costar, Monterey Jack, from a terrible fate.
The movie does at least gussy up this familiar plot a bit by throwing in a sizable helping of adult humor in its details. Chip and Dale discover Monterey Jack’s been purchasing stinky cheese, the movie’s obvious equivalent to illicit drugs, from a mob leader nicknamed “Sweet Pete.” Pete kidnaps Jack once he can’t make his cheese payments in order to “bootleg” him and sell him out to make cheap knock-off movies.
It’s really an amusing set-up and one that seamlessly allows for even more entertaining cameos and references. Seeing and hearing about beloved animated franchises acting badly is oftentimes just plain funny. It helps that no animated franchise is safe from a good skewering here either with references ranging from Paw Patrol to The Simpsons.
Nonetheless, those jokes can only take the movie so far. While Rescue Rangers clearly puts a lot of time and care into those references, the dialogue doesn’t receive the same treatment. Two comedic pros and legitimate funnymen in John Mulaney and Andy Samberg voice the movie’s starring duo, but neither of them says anything humorous enough to evoke a good belly laugh.
With an already somewhat weak plot, the movie just lacks a bit of soul then. There doesn’t feel like a lot there for kids to grab onto in the plot or the humor, yet it also doesn’t seem likely to please adults who really would have enjoyed seeing two great comedians riff off each other in this format.
It doesn’t help that the animation quality is surprisingly suspect in parts too. Rescue Rangers doesn’t have the polish of a standard Disney animated film, leaving the characters feeling a bit stilted and unnatural out in the real world where the movie takes place.
With all that being said, the movie’s breezy and nostalgic tone saves it from ever totally succumbing to those shortcomings. It’s just honestly hard to complain too much about animation quality or dialogue when you’re constantly on the lookout for the next split-second cameo that’s liable to split your sides.
In the end, that puts Rescue Rangers in an awkward position. Chip and Dale really aren’t strong enough on their own to warrant an ongoing reboot, although one may argue the film clearly has that in mind, but the movie itself is so full of laugh-out-loud cameos that you’ll likely want to watch it again to see if there’s anything you missed.
That makes Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers a solid weekend streaming diversion, especially if it gives parents a chance to introduce their kids to some forgotten cartoon classics, but nothing more.
Spotlight Score: 6/10