Although the cartoon duo of anthropomorphic chipmunks Chip and Dale were created in 1943 by The Walt Disney Company, a certain generation will remember these characters from their subsequent TV series, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, which ran for three seasons from 1989 to 1990. Airing around the same time as Chip ‘n Dale was DuckTales, a show that had its own reboot that ran for a few years, instead of the former going through a similar treatment, the Disney+ Original movie does something more unique that plays with the whole idea of franchise rebooting.
In a world co-populated by both humans and cartoon characters, Chip and Dale (John Mulaney and Andy Samberg) meet in elementary school and, despite being outcasts, soon become fast friends. Following three seasons of their show Rescue Rangers, in which they played detectives, their friendship splintered due to separate career goals. Years after, Chip and Dale reunite when their former colleague Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) goes missing and so they must put their differences aside in order to solve a case that involves kidnapping and bootlegging.
In a post-Ready Player One world, where we have seen movies that have toyed with the idea of characters from multiple franchises interacting with each other in the same frame, Chip ‘n Dale is arguably the best to come out of this subgenre that grew thin fairly quickly. In fact, its premise of a detective story taking place in a version of Hollywood, where humans and cartoon characters co-exist, has more in common with 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
While it may sound like dangerous territory for anyone evoking Robert Zemeckis’s extraordinary magic trick of a movie, Chip ‘n Dale is able to successfully bring its own spin on a live-action/animated world. For starters, look at the eponymous chipmunks themselves, as Chip retains his traditional cel-shaded look, whilst Dale became CG animation in an equivalent to plastic surgery. This is a movie that embraces various animation styles that co-exist in a live-action setting, from stop-motion to even the uncanny valley animated films that Zemeckis directed in the 2000s. Even a few puppets get thrown in the mix, such as a two-second appearance of a sock pocket that is one of the funniest things ever.
There are so many cameos, some of which are from other studios’ franchises, that you won’t catch everyone from a first viewing and this is a movie that requires multiple viewings, just for the comedy alone. There is even a supporting character that deliberately evokes and is actually funnier than the two recent Sonic the Hedgehog movies. No doubt the movie satirizes the history of animation, in terms of how the medium has evolved with technology, as well as how the franchises inspired bootleg versions. Although you can definitely praise the film for its satirical edge, it raises the question of will it actually work for children, who probably haven’t even heard of Chip and Dale or their 80s show.
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