IIt’s not really surprising that anyone would be willing to poke fun at Hollywood’s increasingly aggressive remake, reboot and remix, but it’s perhaps more surprising to find the joke coming from the home interior. Not just any house either, but the House of Mouse, arguably the most egregious offender of all.
But the endless sifting of studios scouring their back catalogs (this year promises new spins on Gremlins, Three Men and a Baby, Father of the Bride, Frasier, Scooby Doo, Night at the Museum, Hellraiser, Matilda and many more ), resulted in an unusual satire, made even more unusual given the unlikely packaging. The relatively low-profile release of a hybrid live-action and animated film based on the late ’80s series Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, unloaded on Disney+, seemed at first glance to be more or less the same thing. But inside the Trojan Horse of a lazily unavoidable children’s adventure is surprisingly sharp and detailed comedy. It’s not quite up to par with Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the film he no doubt wants to be compared to, but it’s infinitely better than he had a right to be.
The original series, which ran for three seasons on the Disney Channel, was based on one of those weird fever dream setups that kids accepted with unconditional immediacy. Two semi-dressed chipmunks ran a detective agency with two mice – an Aussie, obsessed with cheese, and a blonde, the object of many crushes – and a housefly. In the movie world, the characters were just actors, living and working in a society where humans and cartoons coexist. Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) and Dale (voiced by Andy Samberg) were childhood best friends who fell out after greed and Hollywood ambition drove them apart and years later they all live together. two very different, but very lonely lives. Chip works in insurance and loves his pet dog while Dale clings desperately to his old fame, haunting fan conventions, waiting for a reboot.
When their old friend and colleague Monterey Jack goes missing, the pair are reunited and uncover a gruesome plot that sees well-known animated characters kidnapped, redesigned and pirated to be sold overseas and coerced into terrible off-brand movies (The Little Mermaid becomes The Small Fish Lady, Beauty and the Beast becomes Beauty and the Cursed Dog Man, etc.).
What’s most surprising about a rather surprising film is just how complex the world-building is, director Akiva Schaffer of Lonely Island fame and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand , putting far more thought and effort into a scene than most traditional filmmakers would put into their entire film. It’s jam-packed with pop culture references, sight gags, and sly jabs at the industry, but fails to achieve the brain-dead overload that has filled adjacent examples. Last year, Free Guy and Space Jam 2 showed two studios throwing everything they had into a blender, both unnecessarily filled with often bizarre references to other movies and shows also available on the respective streamers. from Disney and Warner. He has reached the level of parody (one of Ken Russell’s nuns from The Devils really need to watch LeBron James play basketball with Bugs Bunny?) and the team behind Chip ‘n Dale seem very aware of this, slightly ribbing the state of headache-inducing entertainment (posters for Meryl Streep as Mr Doubtfire and Fast and Furious Babies scope billboards in the background).
There’s also plenty of fun to be had at the expense of animated progress with Dale undergoing surgery to look more like CGI, a fun trip down ‘weird valley’ where the pair encounter ghoulish motion-capture characters from the 2000s and a scene-stealing cameo from Ugly Sonic, AKA the grotesque and fan-hated version of the character from the recent film’s original trailer. It’s all very much aimed at a discerning 30-something audience, while still being kid-friendly and while younger viewers might find it all a little incomprehensible at times, the many Disney cameos and fast-paced pacing should ensure at least some interest.
Despite the stacked cast of comedians and comedic actors (plus Mulaney and Samberg, there are voice roles for Seth Rogen, Tim Robinson, Keegan Michael-Key and Will Arnett), the script feels a few punches away. to be just as funny as it could have been. He’s more likely to produce “oh yeah, that’s smart” smiles than genuine laughs, still a bit hemmed in by the Disney+ character of it all. But what Gregor and Mand achieve is a careful balance of tone, conscious satire never falling into self-referential smugness thanks to a healthy dose of earnestness and genuine affection for the source material.
Consider these low expectations truly saved.