[Screen It]


(2022) (voices of John Mulaney, Andy Samberg) (PG)

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Animated/Live Action Comedy: Former friends and TV actors are reunited as they attempt to find and rescue an old friend and former co-star who's been kidnapped by a criminal who makes bootleg knockoffs of famous animated movies.

Thirty years ago, chipmunk duo Chip (voice of JOHN MULANEY) and Dale (voice of ANDY SAMBERG) were the animated stars of their own TV show that also featured Monterey Jack (voice of ERIC BANA), Gadget (voice of TRESS MacNEILLE) and Zipper (voice of DENNIS HAYSBERT).

But when Dale tried to get his own show, it caused theirs to be canceled, along with a rift between the two friends and co-stars. Now, Chip sells insurance to both animated characters and live-action people, while Dale does the old celebrity appearance circuit while trying to resurrect his career, something he's augmented by getting a CGI makeover to appear more dimensional.

Although they haven't spoken in three decades, the two are reunited when Monterey Jack separately informs them that he's in stinky cheese addiction trouble with local crime figure Sweet Pete (voice of WILL ARNETT) who kidnaps old, animated characters, has them altered, and then makes them appear in bootleg knockoff versions of animated classics.

With Bob the Warrior Viking (voice of SETH ROGEN) and Jimmy the Polar Bear (voice of DA'VONE McDONALD) as his henchmen, Sweet Pete has managed to avoid being caught by Captain Putty (voice of J.K. SIMMONS) and his human underling, Ellie (KIKI LAYNE), but the latter ends up teaming up with Chip and Dale as they set out to find and rescue their old friend and former co-star.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10

It's often said that no one likes surprises. But that really depends on what sort of a surprise it is. Coming home to find that your water heater is leaking falls into the bad and definitely unwelcome variety, while unexpectedly getting a promotion and raise is the kind most will welcome with open arms (and wallets). The latter also arrive under the title of "pleasant surprise" and I always love when those show up in movie form.

That brings us around to this week's Disney+ release of "Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers." While I occasionally saw and was entertained enough by the animated, anthropomorphic chipmunks on TV while growing up in the 1960s and '70s, they were never my "go-to" talking critters of choice. And by the time their standalone TV show debuted in 1989, I was already well into adulthood, and without any kids, I had no exposure to or even knowledge of the short-lived show.

Thus, when I heard they were making a full-length film adaptation of that, I wasn't exactly over-the-moon excited about spending nearly 100 minutes with them. Of course, I had the same initial "why" reaction when the "LEGO Movie" was released, and boy, was I pleasantly surprised by what all involved did with that.

I'm happy to report that the same holds true for this release which I found quite funny, definitely entertaining, and certainly uber-creative in terms of the material going all meta. In short, the offering from director Akiva Schaffer and screenwriters Dan Gregor & Doug Mand plays out sort of like "Roger Rabbit" -- but on steroids -- as it features both live-action and animated characters involved in a detective sort of story.

In short, it's about the title characters who had a falling out three decades ago when efforts by Dale (Andy Samberg) to get his own show ended up sabotaging the "Rescue Rangers" show starring him and Chip (John Mulaney). The two end up reunited when one of their former co-stars, Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), informs them that his stinky cheese addiction and related spending have him in trouble with crime boss Sweet Pete (Will Arnett) and it's not long before the latter's two goons -- Bob the Warrior Viking (Seth Rogen) and Jimmy the Polar Bear (Da'Vone McDonald) -- kidnap him.

It turns out Pete makes bootleg knockoff versions of famous animated films and has former stars appear in them, albeit with some minor to major cosmetic changes. Speaking of which, while Chip still shows up in traditional 2D animated form, Dale's had the CGI makeover, while other characters (and there are lots, both pre-existing and new to the world here) arrive in various other animated forms, such as police chief Mr. Putty (J.K. Simmons) in his glorious Claymation physique (his human underling officer is played by KiKi Layne). Heck, there's even a sock puppet character.

The less said about all of those other characters and various jokes (about Hollywood and much more), the better for you, dear reader, to be pleasantly surprised by how imaginative and creative the offering truly is. Sure, the overall plot of two former friends coming together to solve a mystery and save another friend isn't as special, but that's also part of the joke as the story sometimes ends up folding back on itself in enjoyable ways.

Some surprises I hate (I've had enough broken water heaters for a lifetime), but I'll take the pleasant ones any day. "Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers" is certainly one of them and rates as a 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 17, 2022 / Posted May 20, 2022

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