Monday, May 23, 2022

Disney Watch: Chip n' Dale - Rescue Rangers (2022)

This is a weird one.  It's tough to separate from the weekend twitter meltdowns around the film which have been immediate, loud and remind you 21st Century people are soft, soft @#$%s with some incredibly screwed up priorities, and yet algorithms push these, the worst takes, into your feed.

I didn't watch Rescue Rangers which had an initial run of only 65 episodes, spanning a year and a half between 1989 and 1990.  I'm aware of the show, of course, and starting in 1990 I did watch Tale Spin when I walked in the door from a new school with an earlier release time, but between the timing of the airing of the show and a general disinterest, and being 14 and kinda moving on...  Anyway, back then, to be a nerd did not mean watching everything and hanging onto it forever in quite the way "fandom" insists we do today.

But I am a fan of John Mulaney and Andy Samberg, and guffawed at the trailer for the movie.  It had a nice "I can't believe Disney is letting them do this" vibe, and it was included at no extra cost in my Disney+ subscription.  It looked to be having a nice laugh at a lot of ideas around cartoons, nostalgia, updates and reboots.

There's some strong Roger Rabbit DNA to the film.  Humans and 'Toons co-habitate in this world.  A crime is committed that impacts Toons specifally.  Chip and Dale are actors who played Chip and Dale on their eponymous show (the original Disney shorts are not a part of this world).  All in all, back in the 1990's, we would have called this "postmodernism" in a media studies class.  It's a cute idea for a movie, appeals to older audiences while also pointing the movie and old episodes of the cartoon at kids with a family Disney+ subscription.

But it is weirdly and surprisingly aimed at an older audience.  It's also, for a Disney movie featuring two character I grew up with giving Donald Duck and Pluto a lot of grief, not afraid to go both weird and dark.  Chip as a middle-class insurance salesman and Dale as a celebrity-has-been all feels like it is not aimed at tweens.  Acknowledging child actors get @#$%ed up by their early fame as a major plot point is suuuuper weird for a Disney cartoon.  And, yes, I did think about Disney staple and Peter Pan voice actor Bobby Driscoll while watching the movie even as I forgot Driscoll originally voiced Peter.    
The plot is a reunion between friends who had a falling out (Chip and Dale) that hinges on the need to find their down-and-out addict friend, Monterey Jack, who they believe has been caught by Toon slavers who will turn him into a bootleg cartoon character.  It's a hell of a neo-noir set-up, and, like I said, there's some wildly dark undercurrents in this thing.  

The Ready Player One stuff you've seen online is a bad reading of Toons living among us, and it's shocking to see how many licenses make cameos across the film, from He-Man to Stan Marsh (WB doesn't really play this time) and there are pop-culture jokes left and right, including a swipe at Batman v Superman.

It is worth stating again:  Chip n' Dale are classic Disney characters from the mid-century era of Disney shorts.  They were squeak-voiced mayhem-makers.  The original Rescue Rangers that some folks may be upset they feel this movie is mangling was Chip and Dale playing Indiana Jones and Magnum PI dress-up and riffing on other media to begin with.  There's no sanctity broken here.  

But is it funny?

Yeah!  I mean, I liked it.  I'm not sure I think I'm regretting not giving Disney $12 to see it at the theater, but I liked what they did, and this kind of thing alongside the Disney back-log is a great way to keep me interested in Disney+ month over month.  It's not the first or last time I'll think they took some risks with original content (if you skipped the outstanding Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, you can probably still fix that).  

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