Review: Rescue Rangers revival surprises as an entertaining buddy comedy

Walt Disney Pictures

“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” isn’t the best movie of the year by any stretch, but it might be the most surprising one to me.

The movie, which began streaming today on Disney Plus, not only is a salute to the popular syndicated animated series of the 1990s, but also an ode to the buddy comedies that cashed in big time at multiplexes in the 1980s.

The highly entertaining romp, directed by Akiva Schaffer, blends satire with a conventional action-movie plot for a concoction that goes down just as smooth for adults as it does for kids. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed an animated movie as much, particularly one that debuted on a streaming service.

Like the classic “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” or the more recent “Zootopia,” the story by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand is set in a world where animated characters live and work alongside humans. Chip ’n Dale are estranged former co-stars of a popular TV show, who are now struggling years after their series was canceled.

Responsible Chip (John Mulaney) has given up on the Hollywood lifestyle and is selling insurance, while happy-go-lucky Dale (Andy Samburg) is still chasing the dream, hoping his star will rise again. Dale’s even had the new “CGI surgery” in hopes of enhancing his career, while Chip’s appearance is still classically hand-drawn.

The crux of the film is that animated characters are being snatched up by kidnappers, who surgically change their looks and turn them over to black-market filmmakers, who then use the reworked characters to make knock-off movies for foreign markets.

Chip ’n Dale become involved when their former “Rescue Rangers” co-star Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) is snatched, leading the boys to reform their old team to save their friend.

The movie is an excellent spoof that’s spiced up with more than a few surprising cameos that are fun, but most importantly do not detract from the story or slow down the pace and action.

Like old Warner Bros.’ cartoons, the film is bombastic and silly enough to keep kids entertained, but still clever enough for adults to remain interested. The script takes shots at the entertainment world, and some are stunningly unmerciful, but it’s all in good fun.

KiKi Layne plays Ellie, a live-action rookie police detective, tasked with solving the case. She also just so happens to be an avid Rescue Rangers fan, and after some cajoling, is willing to accept Chip ’n Dale’s help on the case.

While the movie doesn’t offer much new, it’s far more entertaining than than Warner Bros.’ high-dollar effort “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” which played in theaters last summer while simultaneously streaming on HBO Max. I had to struggle to stay awake through that LeBron James vehicle, but I might just watch “Chip ’n Dale” again this weekend.

(PG) 1 hr. 36 min.
Grade: B

  New in Local Theaters

Downton Abbey: A New Era (watch trailer) / (PG) 2 hr. 4 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight

Men (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 40 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle

Emergency (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 45 min. / Malco Pinnacle

Classic Corner – Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director’s Edition)

Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, and DeForest Kelley in Star Trek: The Motion Picture / Paramount Pictures

“Star Trek” originally aired on NBC as a TV series for three seasons from September of 1966 until July of 1969, but the show had a small but dedicated following at best. It was almost canceled each season until it finally got the axe.

However the phenomena that we now know as Star Trek was born in syndication, where the sci-fi series featuring William Shatner as the daring Capt. James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as the stoic Mr. Spock, and DeForrest Kelly as the irascible Dr. McCoy rose from being a cult favorite of sci-fi aficionados to every-day viewing for a generation of kids after school and adults in the 1970s.

Since it was canceled “Star Trek” has never left television, running at some time on some channel for more than 50 years.

The show grew so popular that it spawned a cartoon adaptation by NBC in 1973 and stoked the flames of creator Gene Roddenberry to consider a revival series in the mid-1970s. Those plans might have born fruit if not for the stupefying success of a little sci-fi/fantasy flick directed by George Lucas in 1977 called “Star Wars.”

While “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” buffs would likely fight you over the the distinct differences in the two franchises, there probably wouldn’t be one today without the other.

Just as “Star Trek” opened the door for “Star Wars,” the latter’s box-office success made the former’s move to the big screen not just a possibility but also a reality.

“Star Wars” enormous popularity and profitability along with Steven Spielberg’s triumph with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1978 prompted Paramount to move forward with a new Trek adventure as a feature film rather than a revival of the TV series.

That movie with its on-the-nose title “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” opened in December of 1979, and while beloved by some, it was somewhat of a box-office disappointment and a bit of dud to many story-wise.

Despite that, the film has been refurbished with extra footage, and this cut of the film is being labeled as director Robert Wise’s definitive version, although Wise died in 2005.

This cut of the movie is available to purchase on Blu Ray and has been streaming on Paramount Plus — along with all the other Trek films and TV programs — since April. However for the first time since 1980, the movie will play as intended on the big screen at The Malco Razorback at 3 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday thanks to Fathom Events.

The movie reunites the original crew of the Enterprise for another adventure as Kirk returns to a refurbished ship to once again boldly go where no person has gone before. Along with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and James Doohan return in their roles as senior crew personnel Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, and Scotty.

I would never try to convince anyone that “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” is even close to being one of the best movies in the franchise, or even a good film for that matter. It has pacing and story issues, but it is gorgeously shot.

For fans of the original show, though, just seeing Kirk, Spock and the rest of the gang on the big screen was a tremendous thrill in 1979, and enjoying it again might be a fun way to while away an afternoon or evening, particularly for those who haven’t been thrilled by the series currently running on Paramount Plus.

If you’ve never seen the movie on the big screen, here is your chance. Who knows when or if that opportunity will arise again?