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Andy Samberg and John Mulaney voice Chip and Dale in the Disney+ movie Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers.Disney Enterprises

Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers

Directed by Akiva Schaffer

Written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand

Starring Andy Samberg, John Mulaney and Will Arnett

Classification PG; 97 minutes

Streaming on Disney+ starting May 20

Critic’s Pick

Dismissing Disney reboots is such a familiar exercise by now that it’s practically a national pastime. And it is not as if the Mouse House hasn’t earned the cynicism. For one brief, especially low moment we were this close to being exposed to a 2022 Disney+ series focused on a side character from the 2017 live-action remake of the original 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast. History has taught us that there is no shelf in the Disney Vault that cannot be raided bare.

Which is why the idea of a Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers reboot/remake/re-whatever seemed like a recipe for a migraine when it was announced back in 2014, on the heels of CGI Alvin, Simon and Theodore taking the nation’s children by storm. Maybe we deserve the talking, rapping rodents we are served.

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Chip and Dale are brought together when their former co-star, the toon mouse Monterey Jack, goes missing following an epic cheese bender.Disney Enterprises

But between then and now, someone serving deep in Disney’s intellectual-property trench warfare reversed strategy and decided to do something startlingly close to original: this Chip ‘N Dale 2.0 would be a meta take on the very folly of reboots, while also indulging in the cash-cow cultural nostalgia that Disney’s contemporary assembly line is predicated on fulfilling.

This is all a portentious way of saying that the new Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers movie is a delightful, zippy and genuinely fun thing. Think of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? crossed with Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, with just a dash of the improbable copyright-collision shtick of the classic 1990s anti-drug PSA special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. This is not only the best Disney reboot ever made, but one of the company’s best productions in ages, too.

A lot of its success has to do with the endlessly wink-wink script by sitcom vets Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, and the direction by Akiva Schaffer (Popstar, Hot Rod), who enlists his fellow Lonely Island comedy troupe collaborators Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone to voice various characters. OK, Taccone only has a few bit parts, but Samberg is inarguably the star, voicing smart-aleck chipmunk Dale, who lives in a Roger Rabbit-y world where humans and toons co-exist without question. (Roger himself even makes a quick appearance, as do roughly a hundred blink-and-miss Saturday morning players whose cameos are viciously clever.)

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Humans and toons co-exist without question in the film's world.Disney Enterprises

In this movie’s world, the half-forgotten Disney cartoon series Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers was a real thing starring real toons who made real money, but it all fell apart in spectacular E! fashion thanks to Dale’s dreams of solo stardom, and the refusal of Chip (John Mulaney) to give his co-star room to grow as a performer. Flash-forward a few decades and Dale is squeaking out a living on the fan-convention circuit while Chip lives a hum-drum life as a salesman for Coercive Insurance. The two are brought together when their former co-star, the toon mouse Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), goes missing following an epic cheese bender, resulting in a plot that recalls Roger Rabbit’s Chinatown riff as well as the ribald action buddy-comedies of Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout; yes, really).

Kids who have no idea who Chip or Dale are will get an extreme kick out of the fantastical world – a colourful blend of hand-drawn animation, CGI, live-action and even clay-mation – while adults will be nourished by both the metric ton of cultural nostalgia and the quippy voice work by Samberg, Mulaney, Bana, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen and more. It is a capital crime that the film isn’t being released in theatres – this is a straight-to-Disney+ affair – but it is a minor miracle that the movie was made at all.

If years and years more of Disney reboots are the price that we have to pay for something like Schaffer’s film – coming soon: Barry Jenkins’s The Lion King 2, a live-action sequel to Jon Favreau’s live-action remake; no, this is not one of Chip ‘N Dale’s gags – then so be it. Lock us in the vault, and toss away the key.

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