There are quite a few movies I’m looking for this year. Don’t Worry Darling has been marketed so far almost entirely around the fact that there is “good movie sex” between Harry Styles and Florence Pugh, so I mean, obviously. Despite toys and appearances at Comic-Con revealing half the plot, I still have my eye on Thor: Love and Thunder. Margot Robbie apparently delivers a career-best turn at Babylon, and Robbie’s career already boasts three or four performances that other stars dream of all their lives. X is getting a sequel just months after it hit theaters. Anya Taylor-Joy and Taylor Swift are in a movie together. Taika Waititi makes a comedy about football (football, real football). Scorsese and Di Caprio are back together. Moviegoers are eating this year. So imagine my surprise that I find myself adding the new Chip ‘n Dale movie to my most anticipated list.
I’m not an animation snob. I hope I’ve written about The Simpsons enough times to refute that, and it’s only because I didn’t want the whole article to be just a list of movies I’m looking forward to that I didn’t mention Bob’s Burgers or Spider-Verse in the intro. I think Turning Red is one of the best films of the year. It’s not that Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a cartoon. It’s…well, it’s Chip ‘n Dale.
Rescue Rangers have always been middle level for me as a kid. Growing up in the 90s, I missed their heyday, and I’m impressed that they managed to cling to cultural relevance for so long while their whole schtick feels like Magnum and Indy – the former being a particularly reference dated even if Indy remains a bit timeless. I’m sure some of you loved it, but it just wasn’t for me, which is why my sudden interest in the film surprised and slightly annoyed me.
The film’s plot seems to involve Chip ‘n Dale getting back together for, well, reasons. The plot is never so important, as it is a loose structure on which various jokes can be glued. But the scenery is fascinating. Much like the recent Chloe Moretz film Tom & Jerry, it merges an odd sort of modern 2D animation with live action, only with the added element of 3D CGI characters. In fact, one of the Rescue Rangers (I haven’t been able to tell them apart for 30 years and don’t plan to start now) is having the “surgery” in order to become CGI when he was born in 2D. It’s a great crazy plot and it’s such a mess as it is in a Chip ‘n Dale movie.
It’s not even an affront to Chip ‘n Dale personally. I wouldn’t trust the sleek, modern Disney Original production line to tell a story like this with characters. In fact, it’s better for me that it’s two characters that I don’t care about and I’m happy to see Disney playing with them. But whereas the Michael Jordan Space Jam was basically a Looney Tunes ad and MJ’s shoes disguised as a movie, LeBron’s recent sequel took things to a much more cynical level and just announced everything in the current catalog of Warner Bros. Rick & Morty, Matrix, Batman… whatever. If Warner Bros. owns it, it’s in the movie. The new Chip ‘n Dale movie looks like a modern day Roger Rabbit, but probably without the ingenuity or creativity, replaced by soulless references.
I know full creative control to tell this kind of meta, anti-stories can go wrong (remember The Happytime Murders?), but they can also give us cult hits for the ages like Cool World. I’m still rooting for Chip ‘n Dale, and I’d rather be wronged by a good movie than a bad one, but I expect Disney to waste that killer premise and it pains me to think that this unexpected the excitement will collapse.
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