chip n dale

Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a perfectly agreeable way to spend an hour and a half. It is a by-the-book buddy cop detective story, but as one character says to another in the movie, “Why mess with what works?” That is one of many nods to the “we know you know what’s going on here” sense of humor washing over this movie. It strikes a good tone overall. The meta-trick isn’t original at this point, but it’s handled deftly enough here. There is a joke in this movie about critics responding to a Chip and Dale reboot with a cynical “Why?” The real question is “Why not?” The original cartoon, Chip ’n Dale Rescue Rangers, was itself a reboot/reimagining of a couple of classic Disney characters. Why not do it again?

Surprisingly, there are also many extremely adult jokes peppering the background of this movie. I suppose the principal audience for this movie is people approaching middle-age (like your’s truly), but it sure was odd to see ribald humor tucked into the dark corners of a Chip and Dale movie I streamed early on a Friday morning on the same service my two-year-old uses to binge episodes of Bluey. Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers conjures up memories of laying on the scratchy carpet on my bedroom floor munching on a bowl of dry Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries after getting home from school. Jokes about massage parlors feel out of place on that nostalgia trip. C’est la vie.

A significant portion of Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers takes place at a fan convention. The convention booths are hosted by has-been animated characters like Dale, who was on a Disney cartoon we all watched in the early 90s and who has been scraping by on nostalgia bucks ever since. Yes, this is one of those stories where the characters in the show we use to watch turn out to have been played by actors who happened to be animated. Yes, like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

BUT

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is actually a film in this movie universe, a film that Chip and Dale (which is the name of both the actors and the characters they played in the cartoon) went to see in 1988. So that means there is a level of reality above Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in which the characters in that movie are actors playing actors, as if Singin’ in the Rain was about an actor named Gene Kelly instead of one named “Don Lockwood.” That overarching reality is the reality of Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers.

Does your brain hurt? If so, it’s probably only from trying to make sense of that paragraph. Watching the movie isn’t mind-bending at all, because we’ve come to accept these sorts of meta-textual shenanigans in our movies. At this stage in the Great IP Wars of the early twenty-first century, storytellers have shifted to wink-wink-nudge-nudge narrative conceits to make the endless reboot/rehash/reheats of past pop cultural properties palatable for audiences: Remember that thing you loved. It’s a statement, not a question. And now we can remember it alongside the characters themselves.

Scrolling through our streaming services is very much like attending a fan convention like the one in this movie and sliding from booth to booth getting autographs from familiar faces. Just don’t ask what they’re working on now. It’s not a nice question. They are actors. They would almost certainly rather be making something new than working a booth at a fan convention. Hopefully the money is good.

Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a perfectly agreeable way to spend an hour and a half. It is a by-the-book buddy cop detective story, but as one character says to another in the movie, “Why mess with what works?” That is one of many nods to the “we know you know what’s going on here” sense of humor washing over this movie. It strikes a good tone overall. The meta-trick isn’t original at this point, but it’s handled deftly enough here. There is a joke in this movie about critics responding to a Chip and Dale reboot with a cynical “Why?” The real question is “Why not?” The original cartoon, Chip ’n Dale Rescue Rangers, was itself a reboot/reimagining of a couple of classic Disney characters. Why not do it again?

Surprisingly, there are also many extremely adult jokes peppering the background of this movie. I suppose the principal audience for this movie is people approaching middle-age (like your’s truly), but it sure was odd to see ribald humor tucked into the dark corners of a Chip and Dale movie I streamed early on a Friday morning on the same service my two-year-old uses to binge episodes of Bluey. Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers conjures up memories of laying on the scratchy carpet on my bedroom floor munching on a bowl of dry Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries after getting home from school. Jokes about massage parlors feel out of place on that nostalgia trip. C’est la vie.

A significant portion of Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers takes place at a fan convention. The convention booths are hosted by has-been animated characters like Dale, who was on a Disney cartoon we all watched in the early 90s and who has been scraping by on nostalgia bucks ever since. Yes, this is one of those stories where the characters in the show we use to watch turn out to have been played by actors who happened to be animated. Yes, like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

BUT

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is actually a film in this movie universe, a film that Chip and Dale (which is the name of both the actors and the characters they played in the cartoon) went to see in 1988. So that means there is a level of reality above Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in which the characters in that movie are actors playing actors, as if Singin’ in the Rain was about an actor named Gene Kelly instead of one named “Don Lockwood.” That overarching reality is the reality of Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers.

Does your brain hurt? If so, it’s probably only from trying to make sense of that paragraph. Watching the movie isn’t mind-bending at all, because we’ve come to accept these sorts of meta-textual shenanigans in our movies. At this stage in the Great IP Wars of the early twenty-first century, storytellers have shifted to wink-wink-nudge-nudge narrative conceits to make the endless reboot/rehash/reheats of past pop cultural properties palatable for audiences: Remember that thing you loved. It’s a statement, not a question. And now we can remember it alongside the characters themselves.

Scrolling through our streaming services is very much like attending a fan convention like the one in this movie and sliding from booth to booth getting autographs from familiar faces. Just don’t ask what they’re working on now. It’s not a nice question. They are actors. They would almost certainly rather be making something new than working a booth at a fan convention. Hopefully the money is good.

Portrait of Fuller Seminary alum Elijah Davidson

Elijah Davidson is Co-Director of Brehm Film and Senior Film Critic. Subscribe to his weekly email series that guides you through film history, Come & See, and find more of his work at elijahdavidson.com.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is another variation on the multiverse concept echoing through our blockbusters of late.