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Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (Christian Movie Review)

Verdict: A fun family film elevated by an entertaining concept, clever worldbuilding, and a wholesome message.  

About The Film

Ch-ch-ch-Chip ‘n Dale. Rescue Rangers! Ch-ch-ch-Chip ‘n Dale. When there’s dangers.…”

I was raised on a hefty diet of the Rescue Rangers as a kid (my little sister was obsessed with The Rescuers Down Under and watched it repeatedly). At long last, the lovable rodents are scampering onto Disney+ and ready to prove that they—and not that other high-pitched, singing trio—are the superior cartoon chipmunks. The closest comparable to describe Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is perhaps The Muppets (2011), a reboot made with clear love for the original property and aimed directly at the nostalgic sweet spot of adults who grew up with the show.  

The greatest strength of this reboot is its fun and clever premise. The movie depicts a world where animated characters live alongside humans, and the animated characters from all the classic childhood films are merely actors. Thus, after the original 1989-1900’s Rescue Rangers show was canceled, Chip and Dale went their separate ways. That is, until a villainous, grown-up, and cynical Peter Pan begins kidnapping famous cartoon characters (prepare for cameos galore), altering their appearances, and selling bootlegged videos overseas. Chip and Dale must put aside their differences, come together, and become the real-life versions of their fictional Rescue Ranger personas.

Opinions about the movie will hinge largely on how amusing you find that premise. On the one hand, the captivating hybrid world of live action humans and cartoon characters is fertile soil for a ton of creative ideas. I actually paused the movie on several occasions just to try and spot everything in the endless barrage of fun pop culture references and unexpected cameos. On the other hand, Rescue Rangers doesn’t always capture the same light-hearted and playful tone as the original show. Rather, it has a sort of “crime noir” vibe, played surprisingly straight and serious, and occasionally even a bit dark (at least, in comparison to the original show). Also, since the chipmunks are essentially now middle-aged, some of their issues are more adult-centric, such as a mid-life crisis, dissatisfaction in a dead-end job, and even addiction (albeit, to stinky cheese).

That’s not to say that the movie isn’t fun. There is plenty of humor, but not of a slapstick or overly silly variety. Most of the gags are extremely meta. In fact, parents might find it more amusing than their children. For example, the original, more life-like design of Sonic the Hedgehog for the recent live-action films famously sparked widespread internet outrage and caused the studio to reanimate him to better reflect his cuter, classic cartoon appearance. Well, in Rescue Rangers, that original design humorously appears as Ugly Sonic. Later, the characters go to the “Uncanny Valley”, where all the unsettling-looking characters from the early days of 3D animation reside. Gags like these are definitely funny but depend on a degree of pop-culture understanding. Nevertheless, while the humor may sometimes aim a tad too high for some children, it never stoops too low. Unlike the abominable Alvin and the Chipmunk movies, this movie is never loud or obnoxious.

I enjoyed Chip ‘n Dale:Rescue Rangers, perhaps more so now than I would have 25 years ago. It may not be the same Rescue Rangers I grew up with, but “different” is not always “worse.” In the end, this is a clean and wholesome family film (if perhaps a tad dark sometimes). Parents won’t need to be concerned about their children watching it, and may find plenty of amusement in it too. 

On the Surface

For Consideration

Profanity: After hearing Dale’s bad attempt to rap, Chip says, “And I’m in hell.” There are also a handful of words like “Dumb”, “heck”, “dummies” and “dang it.”  

Sexuality: None. Dale has undergone the “3D surgery” to go from 2D to 3D animation, and I read some early concerns by parents that this plot line would be an attempt to touch on transgenderism, but that is not the case at all.   

Violence: There is some standard cartoon violence. The surgery center where captured cartoons are modified is also spooky and contains some implied violence, but only toward cartoons and never depicted.

Beneath the Surface

Engage the Film

Forgiveness, Friendship, and Community

There are several ways to look at this film from a thematic level. For a movie that is relentlessly meta, it can certainly be approached on a meta level as a form of commentary on contemporary pop-culture, including the commercialization of nostalgia and our relationship to the movies and characters from our childhood. But for a story intended for young audiences, the more meaningful theme is the simple message at the core of the story about the importance of friendship.    

The movie explores the growing and evolving relationship between Chip and Dale. Beginning with their origin story and first meeting, moving into their “glory days” as actors in a successful show, and eventually picking up with their later post-Rescue Ranger lives, the movie examines how relationships can change over time, but how they never stop being important. The two rodents drift apart in part due to misunderstandings and some harbored jealousy. Both act selfishly and attempt to put themselves first. Over the course of their new adventure, they are brought back together and learn to rely on and trust one another. It’s a simple moral lesson, but there’s nothing wrong with that. As the father of twin boys who largely resemble the opposite personalities of Chip and Dale, this movie can hopefully remind them that there is strength in community and friendship. 

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