Cast: Andy Samberg, John Mulaney, Kiki Layne, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Dennis Haysbert, Tress MacNeille, Tim Robinson, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons, cameos by Corey Burton, Jim Cummings, Alan Oppenheimer, Rachel Bloom, Paul Rudd, Paula Abdul
"When it comes to rapping, there's always a choice."
Hollywood. A place where dreams go to die. After a short and successful run with "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" back in the 90's, Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) have a falling out and go their separate ways. Chip settles into the soul-crushing rat race as an insurance salesman, while Dale tirelessly tries to keep his acting dream alive by living in the past and taking on any roles that come his way. Fate brings them back together when their friend Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) lands in trouble with a bootlegging mob, and the police refuse to help. Adversity and life-threatening peril force the chipmunks to resolve their differences and work together before they lose Monty for good.
It's a bleak and depressing commentary on the dark side of fame, ageism, addiction, exploitation, corruption, and the movie business in general. It's also overflowing with rapid-fire pop culture meta-humor that's delivered at a dizzying pace, and multiple viewings are required to pick up on all of the background noise. It desperately wants to recapture the magic of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988), but the shotgun approach makes the production feel random and haphazard at best. Scrooge McDuck, Darkwing Duck, He-Man, Skeletor, My Little Pony, Roger Rabbit, Randy Marsh, Baloo, Tigra, Voltron, Pumbaa, Mantis, Batman, E.T., Flounder, the Three Little Pigs, Black Pete, Mr. Natural, Beavis and Butthead, and dozens of other cartoon characters make brief cameos that are sure to keep you on your toes and distracted from the main story. Ugly Sonic (Tim Robinson) also plays a major role, but he's a one-note joke that's dragged out too long. It almost feels like he was the concept that launched the rest of the film. Fortunately, the chemistry and non-stop banter between level-headed Chip and the incessantly manic and annoying Dale is sweet, sincere, and endearing. Not all of the jokes land, and the movie is so wrapped up in making fun of clichés that it becomes a cliché itself.
As a fan of the original series, and being especially fond of Gadget Hackwrench (Tress MacNeille), I was very concerned about how they were going to handle her character. The fact that she doesn't show up in the trailer at all made me very nervous and hinted at her being a villain or a victim. Clearly, the filmmakers wanted her reveal to be a surprise, and given how much they were skewing pop culture, I feared for the worst. Thankfully, despite the angry backlash from fans, I thought she was handled very thoughtfully and respectfully, although her dialog is a bit cringey.
Overall, I ended up enjoying the movie a lot more than I thought I would, but I also had extremely low expectations going into it. It manages to offer up a good amount of nostalgic fun while also trying to be hip, modern, and self-aware. Its social commentary is sharp and cuts deep, which is a direct contrast to its superficial silliness. The animation and visual effects are very good, but not entirely seamless, and the voice acting is excellent across the board. I consider this a minor made-for-TV hit for Disney, but it also feels like a self-contained one-shot, and I doubt we'll ever see the Rescue Rangers again. But if Disney thinks there's money to be made...