This meta reboot of the popular Nineties TV show is essentially a modern-day riff on ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’
Aan jou: Akiva Schaffer. Met hoofrol: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, JK Simmons, KiKi Layne. PG, 98 minute.
It’s amazing what you can get away with under the pretence of irony. Take Disney Plus’s Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers – a return to the popular Nineties animated TV series, which rebranded some of Mickey Mouse’s oldest friends as rambunctious detectives. Unlike the largely sincere 2017 Ducktales reboot that featured David Tennant as the voice of Scrooge McDuck, the reins here have been tossed over to Akiva Schaffer (van die SNL comedy trio The Lonely Island, and the director of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping en Walk Hard) en Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand. They’ve clearly been given carte blanche to go as weird and meta as their little comedian hearts desire.
Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers does not introduce a new generation to Disney’s squishy cheeked, chipmunk troublemakers. dit is, at best, baseline comprehensible to a general audience. But to millennials who want to indulge in childhood nostalgia but insist that they’re too smart and self-aware to fall for the rest of Disney’s reboot culture? O, it’s catnip.
Tactically positioned as a modern-day riff on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it places Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (another Lonely Island alum, Andy Samberg) in a version of our world that’s populated by both live-action and animated characters. Here the pair are actors who, in the Nineties, starred in the original Rescue Rangers TV show – but quietly fell out after Dale’s ego saw him chase solo stardom.
Chip has since quit the industry. He sells insurance. Dale, now CGI after some very expensive surgery, peddles autographs at fan conventions, in a booth next to Beauty and the Beast’s Lumiere (he keeps burning all the cash that’s handed to him, it’s a depressing sight). Een nag, their Rescue Rangers co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) is kidnapped by a shadowy figure known only as Sweet Pete (Will Arnett). Since the police, and specifically Captain Putty (a riff on Gumby voiced by JK Simmons) and rookie detective Ellie (a live-action KiKi Layne), are trapped behind too much red tape to help, the duo are forced to reunite so that whatever’s wrong gets solved – as the old Rescue Rangers theme tune used to go.
The most impressive thing Schaffer, Gregor, and Mand have achieved here is a true cross-franchise, cross-studio smorgasbord of surprise cameos – to mention any of them feels like ruining half the fun. How did the filmmakers negotiate some of these appearances? It feels almost like a magic trick, some odd feat of cinematic illusion. And while, eerlikwaar, we’re still deep in the realm of “branded content” à la Marvel crossovers and the recent Ruimte konfyt reboot, it’s oddly refreshing to watch one of these mash-up films and not feel actively co-opted into a corporation’s synergy efforts. There are appearances here that feel like they were chosen because they were genuinely funny, not because they’re helpful in advancing some executive’s five-year plan.
Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers sees fit to both indulge in nostalgia – largely through Ellie’s wide-eyed adoration of the old show – and poke fun at it. Disneyland’s Main Street and all its rosy Americana turns out to be a black market for untraceable weapons and muppet fights. Intussen, the villain’s hideout is located in the Uncanny Valley – where you’ll find the cats from Katte rustling around near the bins and Seth Rogen’s motion capture minion Bob sporting soulless “Polar Express eyes”. Is it a little cynical to sneak in a reboot under the guise of wry, cultural commentary? Ja. Did it still make me laugh? Ook ja.
‘Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers’ is streaming on Disney Plus from Friday 20 Mei