In an age of reboots and remakes, it seems that no property is safe and can come back in one way or another. Nostalgia is a driving force for many projects to be made, and many people are willing to watch them, usually due to genuine interest or morbid curiosity. On paper, the idea of a reboot of the TV show Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers might cause some to think that Disney is running out of ideas to reboot. Make no mistake, the original series is beloved by many, but it doesn't seem to have as lasting of an impact as other animated series of the time. But the film wisely avoids being a straightforward reboot, and instead opts for meta humor, a buddy action movie pastiche, and several references and cameos from other animated properties. While there are definitely ties to the original series, it definitely feels more like its own thing. It's one of the more fun movies to come from Disney in a long time, and has plenty of clever gags to make this well worth the watch.
The idea of blending various IPs is not a new thing, and has become even more common as of late. From crossover episodes of TV shows, films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the book Ready Player One (as well as the 2018 screen adaptation of it), we have seen many instances of characters from different IPs appearing together in the same medium. Something like Roger Rabbit would be the best case scenario when working with several IPs, whereas something like Space Jam: A New Legacy would be the worst. The former is a spectacularly crafted film that blends live-action and animation effectively, while also serving as a bit of a love letter to animation itself. The latter pretty much throws a bunch of recognizable characters in the mix with no rhyme or reason, and comes off as pandering. Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers is thankfully much closer to Roger Rabbit than Space Jam, and makes creative use of the cameos and IP that are featured here. There may be a couple of moments where it feels a little gratuitous, but overall, this is one of the better films that heavily uses IP, and comes awfully close to capturing the magic of Roger Rabbit.
The film has a fairly standard plot when you look at it on a basic level. In this universe, Chip 'n Dale are two childhood friends that wanted to make it in show business, and hit it big with Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. But the two have a falling out at the peak of the show's success and go their separate ways. In the present day, Dale (who received a surgery to make him CGI) tries to hold onto his fame, while Chip lives a quiet life as an insurance salesman. The two end up reuniting, and find themselves roped into solving a case involving missing cartoon characters, and must work together for the first time in many years. While the plot isn't anything inventive, it's the little details that make it stand out, as well as how the film uses a blend of varying animation styles with live-action. On top of that, there are so many great sight gags all throughout the film, and the meta jokes it makes land for the most part.
One of the film's greatest assets is the dynamic between Chip and Dale themselves, who are voiced by John Mulaney and Andy Samberg, respectively. Mulaney plays more of the straight man to Samberg's funny man, and they complement each other so well. Both of them have some great laughs all throughout the film, and are an absolute highlight of it. Alongside them is Kiki Layne, who portrays one of the film's few human characters. She does a decent job, but the material she's given feels a bit slight. There's also a great supporting voice cast made up of J.K. Simmons, Eric Bana, Keegan-Michael Key, and Seth Rogen, all of whom are pretty solid here.
As mentioned above, the film makes great use of how it mixes animation and live-action. The 2D animation arguably looks the best here, but the CGI isn't half-bad either. In addition to this, the film features a stop-motion character, and a couple of puppet characters, which helps make the world of the film feel more unique and specific. The way the animation mixes with the live-action is much more effective than I would have guessed it would be, and the film itself has a great look to it. It helps that Larry Fong is the cinematographer on this, and he helps make this film look better than it has any right to be. Furthermore, Akiva Schaffer's involvement definitely keeps this afloat, as he does a pretty good job directing this. He has proven himself as a good comedy director with films like Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, but this might be his best non-Lonely Island work so far.
I feel that the film's more cliched plot elements keep it from being truly excellent, but it is such a fun time that it didn't bother me too much. It brings enough new things to the table to keep it from feeling generic, and it is clear that the film was made with love and appreciation for Chip and Dale, as well as the original show. If you're going into this expecting it to be a standard reboot, you might be disappointed, but if you are a fan of animation, and appreciate meta humor, there is a lot to enjoy here. This film is much better than I was expecting, yet it isn't quite as great as it could have been either. If nothing else, this is a nice, breezy little movie that should appeal to those who are nostalgic for the specific era of animation that the original Rescue Rangers series aired during. I definitely had a fun time watching this, and it wouldn't surprise me if I watch it again in the near future. It may not be anything revolutionary, but it's a fun time nonetheless.