It’s lately become a genre- nostalgic properties all coming together Roger Rabbit-style, uniting them all in a single universe, claiming it to be the next big ambitious crossover, since they all just have to catch up to what Marvel did with both Infinity War and Endgame. The problem is none of those movies are good… not even a little. They all just bask in stuff that would appeal to a specific audience and nobody else, relying on the excitement of familiarity from a more innocent time, and their poor excuse of a story slapped on as an afterthought never works out. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is no exception.
The only human character given to connect with is a young female cop named Ellie, played by a totally lost KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk). The chipmunks are a bit better, but not by a whole lot. Dale is decently likable, but too much about Chip’s predicament just isn’t handled well. Essentially, the first few minutes show how the two friends go from starring in their hit TV show to parting ways, Chip particularly going into the world of insurance, which he considers a downgrade from acting. That right there is pretty insulting to the real heroes who sell insurance. Then at home, everything is chipmunk-sized for Chip, that is, with the exception of his pet dog, who’s just a regular dog that he’s somehow not worried about being chased by. Once the plot gets going, it’s all just distracting celebrity cameos, poorly timed puns, and jokes that go on too long, and no high production values can make any of that appealing for very long.
In this world where cartoons live alongside humans, there are also a few puppets here and there, none of which seem to be performed by professional puppeteers. Some computer-generated characters are present as well, most of which are there just to be turned into jokes about having “Polar Express” eyes, even though Chip and Dale hypocritically have those very same eyes with minimal expression animated into them. These two start out being made with 3D graphics outlined to look 2D while all the other hand-drawn toons are just traditional 2D animations, yet it really gets creepy when Dale first appears with his CG surgery to look photoreal, almost as creepy as the Cats movie (which this movie also briefly mocks). Seriously, these digital models are so unflattering—it looked great for the most part in Who Framed Roger Rabbit with lighting the characters to look like they belong in the scene, but there’s none of that here.
There’s only one character where these effects worked well: Ugly Sonic. Yes, the first design of Sonic the Hedgehog before the movie premiered, the one the internet attacked and forced the studio to redesign. For every lazy use of a pop culture figure this movie carelessly throws in, there’s a somewhat brilliant one such as this. Furthermore, it’s fun to see how every animated character is an easter egg to some property, even the new characters have a little charm; one cop is made out of Claymation, which generates some sight gags that are taken their fullest advantage of in the climax, almost like he’s the T-1000.
There’s further mindfulness of the setting that is appropriately designed to trigger different responses from the distinct categories of people watching this movie. At one point in the film, somebody mentions how fans want a Rescue Rangers reboot, of which some audiences who were there when the show was on will be like, “Heck yeah! Bring us back our childhood heroes!” while others will be like, “No! All these studios are running out of ideas! Give us something new!” This movie appeals to both sides of the issue and seeks to give everybody something new.
Chip and Dale likewise have some pluses in how they’re reimagined. The first scene of them is when they first meet in third grade, which isn’t just cute, but rather sad since Dale is the weird kid who sits by himself at lunch. As they grow up, Dale’s tired of being the dumb one compared to the much smarter Chip, which is totally understandable because he was written to be the Lennie to Chip’s George for almost the entirety of the duo’s existence. That was actually a common character trope back in those old days of animation from the 30s to the 50s, so this reboot seems like a revisionist take on that trope for the modern-day.
Not that the story isn’t anything we’ve never seen before in the here and now, because this direct-to-streaming release is as cheaply handled in its plot as any major studio blockbuster released during the summer. The concept of the toons and humans coexisting together feels like it’s meant to be an allegory to race, but that doesn’t work considering most of the kids at the elementary school are White. There are also tiny little tables and houses designated for the chipmunks to live in, so then how exactly does this society function? It’s impossible to buy into whatever career this pretends the chipmunks experienced, it suggests that they got their start in showbusiness by the late 1980s, making a weird pre-fame appearance in an episode of Full House during that time, even though these two characters have been around since the 1940s.
So long story short, powerful filmmakers shouldn’t make movies about nostalgia for the sake of pleasing fans since not even they understand why or how those properties were popular to start with. We don’t need any more Ready Player One, we don’t need any more Space Jam: A New Legacy, we don’t need any more Godzilla vs. Kong, we don’t need any more Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, we don’t need any more Wreck-It Ralph, we don’t need any more Pixels, we don’t need any more Marvel, and we definitely don’t need any more Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. But those Lego movies are good, they can stay.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!