Leave it to The Lonely Island – the creative minds behind the goof-rapping Saturday Night Live “Digital Shorts” that brought us “Dick in a Box,” “I Just Had Sex,” and “I’m on a Boat,” along with the millennial answer to Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – to resurrect Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers with a fiendishly marvelous reboot film. Oh, sure, the plot’s not unlike other similar films where two estranged friends have to work together to save someone they love, complete with all the requisite “lesson learned” moments that stock these films like apples in a controlled atmosphere warehouse. But the thing about The Lonely Island is that they have this stellar, inimitable way of paying homage to something whilst brutally skewering it.
They proffer no less of their usual tact here, shoving an adult-themed joke in our faces in the OPENING SECONDS of Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers that has to do with… well, exactly what adults would think when discussing two names such as “Chip and Dale.” Yep – while this film has all the cute-and-cuddly hallmarks of a children’s film, there’s no mistaking the notion that this film seems to be tailor-made for the adults who grew up watching the animated series which this film seeks to reboot. It’s innocuous enough that the kids’ll enjoy it, but some of the jokes will fly straight over their heads and splat right in their parents’ faces.
Packed full of cameos and dialogue that drive it more toward longtime fans, Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is an utterly reckless, chaotic, and lovable film bearing more heart and emotion than other films of its ilk. At the core, it’s about friendship and the lengths we’ll go to keep said friendship while juggling fading stardom and a whole host of other satirical material that’s better experienced than spoiled. Director (and founding member of The Lonely Island) Akiva Schaffer knows exactly how to tap into the precious reservoir of memory and childhood, only to bring it forward to adulthood and use all the spin of growing older to fashion a unique, enjoyable experience for everyone.
Schaffer – who also helmed The Lonely Island’s seminal cult classic Hot Rod – pushes the nostalgia buttons and merges it with modern sensibilities to make an endlessly watchable film. Of course, having access to Disney’s stable of properties and the money that comes along with it, the sky’s the limit with the various pops of familiarity and warmth he imparts. Characters from all over the animated universe – including some from other studios – populate this Roger Rabbit-esque world set forth for us, where Toons coexist peacefully beside humans, which is where the famed duo of Chip and Dale meet and form a fast friendship, eventually leading to their star turn on their namesake detective show. (Funny that I should mention Roger Rabbit…)
The 1950s slickster voice that John Mulaney sports in his brand of comedy and the sly, self-parodying persona Andy Samberg has developed make their renditions of Chip and Dale an instant hit. Each of them vibes off the other to create a timeless patter and rhythm that keeps this film popping. But it’s more than that; they keep this film alive and alight. Mulaney’s standout voicings give the traditionally-animated Chip – who’s turned to selling insurance after Dale decided to go solo with the ill-fated “Double-O Dale,” thus getting their show canceled – a jaunty, yet hard-bitten nuance, and Mulaney leans completely into all the skids which his character is forced to go through thanks to his former partner.
As Chip, Samberg’s voice is note-perfect, lending believability to Chip being the huckster who went from stardom to fake-it-‘til-you-make-it. The most work he’s seen doing is at his convention booth, selling autographs and merchandise while waiting for the call from his agent offering another shot at the big time that never seems to come. Samberg’s patented “Yeah, that’s exactly what I meant” bravado and gloss match well with his new 3D, computer-generated image – meant to be a slight backhanded slap directed toward plastic surgery. Everything about him since the demise of his and Chip’s show has been an act, a fraud; so when their pal and former sidekick Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) goes missing, he sees it as an opportunity to take “Chip n’ Dale” from the fictional to the real by solving his disappearance.
The plot, as threadbare as it might seem, gains traction thanks to the interpersonal dynamics between Chip and Dale. Writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand (who are also given small voice roles) know that this kind of story – two friends at odds with each other having to band together to exact justice – has been done to death, but it’s granted the magic of being centered upon two animated actors who’re just trying to do a job. And from there, a wellspring of imagination and comedy erupts; there’s a laugh and a nod to pop culture every minute, but there’s also a beating heart that gives Chip and Dale the moxie to keep going, even if their detective friend Ellie (KiKi Layne) tells them that the red tape they have to put up with will make their investigation impossible.
There’s just so much joy and love woven into this film that you can’t help but fall under its charms. Even my wife, who wasn’t the biggest fan of the original show to begin with, turned to me after our screening and said, “Damn it. I wasn’t supposed to like that, but I did.” The voice acting, plot, and pointed jabs at Hollywood life completely warm viewers to what’s going on, and it’s even more of a hoot when you see and hear the absolute abandon with which each performer carries out their task. Every actor has bought in, whether just being a counter to the onscreen craziness or being party to it. As a casual Chip n’ Dale fan, I wasn’t expecting much, but having those expectations completely exceeded and shattered, I can’t wait to watch this one again.