Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
A Surplus of Cameos, Cutaway Gags, and Pop Culture References and Little Else
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a live-action/animated reboot of the 1988 animated series of the same name. The marrying of animation and live-action in the same film is similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Directed by The Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer, the film was written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand; two screenwriters that collaborated on the likes of Dolittle and How I Met Your Mother.
Thirty years ago, during the peak of the animated series, Dale (now voiced by Andy Samberg) made the decision to try to make a career on his own. Without telling Chip (now voiced by John Mulaney), Dale lined up a new show entitled Double-0-Dale. Double-0-Dale would never find an audience past its pilot and Rescue Rangers was canceled shortly thereafter.
In the present day, Dale now makes a living on the convention circuit while riding the coattails of whatever excitement still remains from being a part of a beloved animated series. Chip, a top-of-his-class insurance salesman, now lives a very normal life that sees him excited to come home to his pet dog every evening. The two haven’t spoken since the Double-0-Dale incident, but are reunited when Monterey Jack from Rescue Rangers is kidnapped.
The film toys around with several different types of animation styles. Most of the characters have a traditional, hand-drawn, or 2D appearance while Dale is 3D or computer animated thanks to having CGI surgery. Police chief Captain Putty (voiced by J.K. Simmons) is entirely claymation like Gumby and there’s even a brief moment where a sock puppet is used. And then everything in between is a variety of different qualities of animation that usually fall within some sort of realm of computer generation (Seth Rogen’s Bob the Warrior Viking, the Uncanny Valley, etc).
Unfortunately, the traditional animation of Rescue Rangers is incredibly ugly. Most of the 2D characters appear to be rotoscoped meaning they were drawn over live action footage (like the animation in A Scanner Darkly or The Spine of Night). This can be executed well, but 2D characters are overwhelmingly flat in Rescue Rangers that are blobby in appearance with no detail besides a black outline and basic colors. This could have been done on purpose to stand out from the other types of animation in the film or to save time, but it’s still disappointing.
The writing of the film is horrendous. The basic storyline is fantastic which involves the bootlegging facility and Sweet Pete (voiced by Will Arnett) essentially trying to bootleg the entire animated world. Unfortunately, it feels like the film barely focuses on that like a kid on the playground with severe ADHD. Instead, Rescue Rangers is over loaded with constant cutaway gags and pop culture references while most of its charm involves spotting which animated character is going to cameo from an opposing animation studio next. The film is basically a 97-minute version of Where's Waldo. It’s a redundant formula that gets old even with the film’s short duration.
A Film That Injects So Much Flavor Into Itself That It's Flavorless
There is some good stuff buried within Rescue Rangers. There’s a Seth Rogen gag near the end of the film that is seriously great and the fight between Captain Putty and Ellie (Kiki Layne) has some incredible T-1000 from Terminator 2 vibes. Flula Borg has a brief appearance as a giant snake wearing sunglasses named DJ Herzogenaurach and is pretty entertaining despite not being around much (the whole rapping thing is one of the film’s most humorous sequences).
The cameo of a certain dangerous duck at the end of the film is also a highlight. A potential reboot, series or film, of that character would be a dream at this point. Most of the cameos are overshadowed by Ugly Sonic; the less than favorable design of Sonic the Hedgehog before he was redesigned for the 2020 film. Out of all the cameos and side characters, Ugly Sonic probably has the most screen time. gags, and dialogue. The fact that he’s still been making a living with a supposed resurgence on the horizon is humorous in itself.
There’s a few laugh out loud jokes, clever story beats, and fun appearances in Rescue Rangers. The way the film incorporates so many different types of animation into a live action film is a challenge that they mostly succeed at executing. However, the film’s lackluster writing is its biggest obstacle. It feels like an episode of Family Guy on crack and that’s coming from someone who has watched and enjoyed Family Guy since it started.
Rescue Rangers throws all of these ideas and characters at a wall to see what sticks and before they can process what works and what doesn’t they’re already throwing another pile at the wall; it’s too much to digest and too much of a good thing all at once. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a film that distracts itself from telling its own story. It has some fun moments, but its absent-minded storytelling is too overwhelming to ignore or fully enjoy.
© 2022 Chris Sawin