Disney reboot is better than the trailers make it look.
When I first saw the trailers for the made-for-Disney+ movie “Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” I was concerned that the movie’s combination of animation and live-action was going to be nearly as bad as in “Cool World.” When I actually saw the movie, it’s looks more convincing, because of the textures and shadows that support the cartoons in a live-action world. There have been many attempts to top the miracle of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” since 1988, and half of them are fun on their own terms, while the other half tend to bonk themselves on their heads.
I was also skeptical about the casting of John Mulaney and Andy Samberg as Chip n Dale, because of how I was concerned that celebrities voicing our favorite cartoon characters was a commercial game, especially when Julia Roberts had to voice a Smurf in “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and when Zendaya had to voice Lola Bunny in “Space Jam: A New Legacy. To clarify, when they’re recording their cartoon lines and arguing, they sound like the Disney chipmunks, but when they’re being themselves, they sound like Andrew Glouberman and Jake Peralta. But you know what? I actually enjoyed how Mulaney and Samberg are able to voice these chipmunks without thinking they’re better than the cartoon voice actors that preceded them.
“Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers” is more of a satire of reboots, bootleg copies, cliches, and combines stop-motion, traditional animation, and CGI in its own live-action universe. It doesn’t take the cartoon cameo risks like “Roger Rabbit” did, but I did smile when Chip’s neighbor is “The Little House,” and when Pete had to dress up like Aladdin, and when Darkwing Duck gets overshadowed at a cartoon convention.
The story involves Chip being traditionally animated, while Dale had to get the obligatory “CGI surgery,” and they’re both involved in a plot when a bootleg Peter Pan (voiced by Will Arnett) is kidnapping various cartoon characters to alter them for the black market. Sounds like a spoiler alert, but the trailers already did that for us. And plus, we basically knew Judge Doom was the murderer in “Roger Rabbit.”
The movie’s all-star cast also features Keegan-Michael Key as the voice of a puppet cheesemonger, Seth Rogen as a badly CGI dwarf, JK Simmons as a claymation police chief, Eric Bana as the voice of Monterey Jack, the Australian muscle from the series, Dennis Haysbert now voicing the fly Zipper, and Kiki Layne as a spunky, young detective and a die hard fan of the show.
In a way, Layne reminds me of Piper Perabo’s character in “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” and it’s interesting how she transcends from a serious role with “If Beale Street Could Talk” being her best to a spontaneous role like in this. For the kids to see this film, they won’t know who she is, because she hasn’t been in a kids film before, but after they learn her name in this, they’ll learn to appreciate her more. I know, because thinking back to my youth, I wouldn’t have known who Mike Myers was, if it wasn’t for “Shrek.”
And there are cartoon voice actors like Tress MacNeille, Corey Burton, Charles Fleischer, and Jim Cummings reprising their cartoon roles. I’m mixed about how half the time, the combo looks good and the other half looks tedious, but I’m glad they these voice actors keep their spirits on the spot.
Mulaney and Samberg are two of “SNL’s” freshest talents, and they’re able to express their comedy on their own levels. Again, I was concerned that they would be self-congratulatory about providing the voices of the chipmunks, but somehow, they actually have chemistry here.
I don’t think anything will ever top “Roger Rabbit,” but “Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers” is miles ahead of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” or “Cool World” or definitely “The Happytime Murders.”
Streaming on Disney+ This Friday