Monterey Jack’s cheese habit was no secret. Hey, it was the ’90s. Everyone was doing cheese back then. And given that the Rescue Rangers star was, y’know, named after a type of cheese, it was almost expected.
For a while, it seemed like he could handle it.
But Monty wasn’t content with just cheddar. No. He moved onto the harder stuff, the smellier stuff. Limburger. Camembert. Gorgonzola. You know how it is. And cheese like that, it don’t come cheap.
Soon, like so many cartoon rodents before him, Jack was in the hole to the Valley Gang. And when ’toons cross the Valley Gang, they’ve been known to … disappear. Erased, you might say. Rumor has it that they end up overseas, appearing in cheap, bootlegged versions of their own better work: The Small Fish Lady. Beauty and the Cursed Dog Man. Pooj the Fat Honey Bear.
In desperation, Monty calls up a couple of old pals—friends from his TV days. Maybe they could keep the Valley Gang off his back. Help him stay off the Edam, steer clear of the Gruyere. And maybe, if all goes well, those old friends might even speak to each other again.
After all, the partnership of Chip ‘n Dale didn’t end well. After a three-year run in the smash TV show Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Dale decided to go out on his own—star in his own show, Double-O-Dale. “I’m sorry, Chip,” he said at the time. “I’m tired of being second banana.”
He should’ve known how prickly Disney executives could be: The Mouse House shut down Rescue Rangers, and Dale’s pilot was never picked up. Chip blamed Dale for their sudden career reversal, and the two chipmunks went their separate ways.
Chip made a clean break from the profession. He sells insurance now, and he’s good at it. “In my experience, bad things happen all the time!” he tells his customers.
And Dale? He’s still fighting to be a star: A Sonny without Cher, a Garfunkel without Simon. He attends all the fan events, connects on social media. Why, he even underwent some CGI surgery to stay hip, stay relevant. And he’s hopeful that, maybe, Rescue Rangers might even get a reboot due to fan demand. There’s even a Rescue Rangers fan page.
“A Facebook fan page?” Monty gasps. “They don’t just give those away!”
But Dale and Chip’s unexpected reunion in Jack’s apartment does not go well. And it’s obvious that Monty still isn’t dairy free. Chip leaves in a huff—telling Monty that if he’s in any real trouble, to give him a ring again.
But Monty never has the chance. Shortly thereafter, he vanishes. The police ask Chip and Dale for statements, but they don’t have much hope of saving their old friend. Not against the Valley Gang.
Nope, if Monty’s going to be saved, our animated chipmunks are going to have to do the saving themselves.
Hollywood is filled with the stories of onscreen partners who hated each other. Chip ‘n Dale weren’t among them. In a lengthy flashback, we learn how the two met in 1982 at elementary school. Dale was the awkward new kid: Chip took his Knight Rider lunchbox and sidled right next to him in the lunchroom—befriending the chipmunk right then and there. From then on, the two were inseparable, honing their comedic skills as they followed Chip’s motto: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk at all.”
Their friendship took a beating for a bit (as many friendships do). And while the movie’s plot revolves around saving Monty from the Valley Gang, its heart is the reconciliation of these two cartoon icons—realizing that each really needs the other to be their best selves.
It’s a nice message, and one that could be applied to any number of relationships. The two risk a great deal for their pal, too—bringing bunches of brainpower and bravery to bear.
Also, Chip retroactively feels bad for hitting Dale on the head with a pipe during pretty much every episode of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. And he should.
Dale greets a fan by saying “namaste,” which has associations with Hinduism but often serves as just a more generic greeting among Hindi speakers.
Dale notes that he and Chip are probably only the third most famous “Chippendales” on the scene—trailing the English cabinet maker (Thomas Chippendale) and the risqué group of male dancers. We see a few snippets of those dancers—shirtless, naturally, but wearing their little tuxedo ties.
Famous animated action characters He-Man and Skeletor man a table at a fan event. When He-Man mentions he felt something race under him, Skeletor says, “There’s nothing down there, you boob! You go around long enough with no pants, you’ll notice a breeze!” Chip and Dale also lack trousers, of course; when Chip points that out, someone tells him that it’s “nothing to brag about.”
A few characters go shirtless. Animated men (or male animals) lounge about what appears to be a bath house. It’s mentioned that a police officer was attacked by Nickelodeon’s Paw Patrol. “Doctors say he’ll never have kids,” we’re told.
Dale says that he likes to “map my runs in the shape of a butt.” He holds up his mapping fitness app to the camera, so we can see just what a backside-shaped run might look like. When faced with a terrible animation re-editing machine, one character says, “This body is meant to be looked at, not touched!”
A middle-aged guy at a Comic-Con like event walks through the halls dressed as an angel; his exposed knees might make it look to some as though he’s wearing a dress. We learn that Gadget and Zipper (a chipmunk and insect character, respectively, from the original Rescue Rangers TV show) got married and had 42 kids. When Chip tells Dale that his companion, Millie, is a dog, Dale assumes Millie is a lady friend. He says, “I’m sure she’s not that bad.”
Slapstick humor has always been part of Chip ‘n Dale’s schtick, and we see plenty of it here. The two chipmunks repeatedly slam each other’s heads with pipes and bars. Clouds of smell prove to be strong enough to actually form a fist and hit someone in the chin. Various characters are grabbed and thrown about.
They dodge lasers in a diabolical transmogrifying machine—one intended to swap various body parts with others. (Chip loses an ear to the machine and grows, in its place, a floppy “Snoopy” ear. We also see removed parts from other cartoon characters, bagged and catalogued.) We see several characters who’ve been, um, significantly altered by the machine.
Missiles and bullets are fired about. A character is smashed under a net full of crates. Someone is thwacked in the gut with a sentient cannonball. Fireworks explode and destroy things. Dale and Chip nearly drown in the sewer, and for a minute one of them believes the other did. (An old plush animal stands in for the drowned chipmunk.) Animated characters fight and wrestle. Someone apparently freezes and shatters.
Outside a questionable use of the word “h—” and the use of the word “boob” as an insult, there’s not much to mention here. (We do hear the words “heck” and “dang,” though.)
Monty’s cheese addiction is framed as an illicit, drug-like habit—complete with an illegal cheese-selling operation down on main street. (“I’ve got smell lines that’ll take you through the ceiling,” the parmesan pusher says.) We see an opium-like parlor where various animated rodents consume the foodstuff.
Chip and Dale drink what appear to be bottles of beer, giving one to their police partner, Ellie. (Because the tiny drink is chipmunk sized, she holds the tiny bottle with just a couple of fingers.)
Toilet humor? Oh, yeah. There’s toilet humor—including a joke involving Chip and Dale jumping into an actual toilet. (Squeamish Chip tries to scrub the bowl a bit cleaner while singing “Happy Birthday” as he prepares to make the dive.)
Chip rolls his eyes when he thinks that Dale’s going to utter another “fart” joke. He frets that Millie might be lonely and “pee” all over his house. (Given that the dog is a normal, human-size dog in a chipmunk-size house, a bathroom accident could be especially bad.) We learn that Rescue Rangers-brand cologne smelled like “almond butter and gasoline.” (Cheese also has some stink-based jokes attached to it, too.) We hear about the fate of unused cannisters of Shrek Body Wash: They were all melted down to make Porta-Potties. My Little Ponies characters vomit rainbows.
The film features tons of animated characters (and puppets, too) from other shows and movies; accordingly, and we see glimpses of characters from more adult-oriented fare such as South Park and Big Mouth.
The movie tells us that Chip met Dale in 1982. In reality, Disney’s toothy twosome has been around since 1943. Not too shabby, given that the average lifespan of an Eastern chipmunk is about three years … and the average relevance of a celebrity is about three weeks. Some YouTube stars who began their careers when I began writing this review have already gone through two comebacks by now.
You don’t stay in the entertainment business for long without changing with the times. Given that the original Rescue Rangers ended its run more than 30 years ago, Chip ‘n Dale had some catching up to do.
And boy, did they catch up.
Disney+ is counting on the brand name to pull many parents (and their kids) to the screen. But honestly, the movie might remind moms and dads far more of Who Framed Roger Rabbit than the original Rescue Rangers cartoon–adding a dash of Community, a pinch of Free Guy and a dollop of old-fashioned fun. These chipmunks have gone meta on us (would that make them meta-munks?), and their movie is filled with animated cameos, in-the-know gags and curiously sly cultural commentary.
How Disney got the rights for all the things we see referenced here, I have no idea. The breadth of reference points is almost as surprising as Disney’s own willingness to poke fun at itself. For those thinking that Rescue Rangers just cashes in on our love of nostalgia, think again: This screen-based vehicle has had its combustion engine replaced with an improbability drive.
While that makes for a pretty good movie, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers comes with a few elements that range a bit out of bounds. You get some toilet humor, tiny beer bottles and suggestions that a love for cocaine and cottage cheese aren’t that far apart: Nothing shocking, to be sure. Just mildly annoying.
I don’t know if the comedic team of Chip ‘n Dale needed rescuing themselves. Their classic shorts and much-beloved TV show have made them cross-generational favorites. But this show pulled them out of the past and chucked them into the oh-so-meta present. And even if the movie might feel a bit dated in 20-30 years, I have a feeling that, for some families, it might land in classic territory all the same.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.