I Think I Hate the Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers Movie

Okay, I actually enjoyed watching the movie itself. It was funny and self-aware, and I don't regret pirating it for the watch. But the next morning I got to thinking about the whole thing in context, and then I got cynical. So here I'll attempt an explanation of how I came to turn against this lovable, instant-classic film.

Bear in mind that for the rest of this article I'm going to pretty much present Chip n' Dale under the worst light possible; which is namely the glaring fact that Disney is a hundred-billion-dollar media monopoly trying to maintain a folksy, fantastical, and family-friendly image in the eyes of the general public while ruthlessly enforcing its intellectual property rights and profiting chiefly from people obediently consuming the most cheaply-created content at the highest prices the market will bear.

Oh and, uh, spoilers ahead.

Chip's Character Arc

Let's look at the basic beats of Chip's character arc. At the beginning, he's not exactly portrayed as happy but appears to be doing decently for himself. We're shown tastes of his work and home life, and we see he's trying to move on from his past and make the most of his more humble present. Something clearly demonstrated is his loathing for all the low-effort reboots and crossover movies that are flooding the market. A bunch of hilariously terrible examples are highlighted for our amusement, including Batman vs ET, for which Chip begrudgingly admits he has interest in and ends up watching. Although, despite apparently enjoying the film, he still expresses cynicism at its sentimental ending (ooh, maybe a bit meta?).

Then he goes on a series of adventures while trying to save Monterey Jack and ends up rediscovering his sense of adventure, reconnecting with more of his past friends, and learning how to forgive. Oh, he also learns that obsessively orienting your life around an old TV series isn't really that bad after all and can even help save the day. And he realizes that he wants to be a part of one of those reboots he once ranted so passionately against, if only to be with his friends again. Because remember everyone: If your childhood heroes aren't being recycled into franchise reboots, they'll end up selling insurance with a dog as their only companion, secretly miserable and estranged from their true friends.

To be perfectly clear, my problem is not that Chip learned to be less of a stick in the mud and forgave dale. What I dislike is the false dichotomy of moving on from your past and being miserable versus reliving your past and finding joy. It's the same way I dislike the old "happily ever after" trope where the only way to solve your problems is to find your Prince Charming and get married. A trope which, I'll note, Disney has put in heaps of work to distance themselves from in this post-Frozen era.

And it's important to keep in mind that these cartoon characters are literally Disney's property. By anthropomorphizing them in this more real-life way, we the audience are encouraged more than usual to use our sympathetic emotions when judging the next franchise reboot and deciding whether we want to spend our money on it.

A Profitable Plot

The plot is almost a standard noir story. Chip and Dale's old friend, Monterey Jack, falls on hard times, gets himself in debt to a crime syndicate, is kidnapped by said syndicate, and is destined for a terrible fate. Our heroes have to follow the clues and outwit the villains in order to save him before it's too late. Hilarity ensues.

What I want to focus on here is that terrible fate. Because in a world with muppet fights, CG cosmetic surgery, and secret underground ~opium~ cheese dens, the worst thing that can happen to a cartoon is to have their copyrighted character design remixed and be forced to star in low-budget bootleg movies made overseas. Although a big twist is that the bootlegs are actually being filmed right here in the U.S. of A, but that doesn't matter much for my point. Getting bootlegged is talked about akin to torture, and it apparently strikes fear into the heart of every cartoon.

Now, putting aside the obvious sympathetic horror at having one's appearance changed against one's will and the overt allusions to human trafficking, this is clearly something that Disney as a corporation wants to impart as a big evil in the minds of the audience. Disney has vehemently defended its intellectual property for decades. They are almost single-handedly responsible for the draconian copyright laws and insane extensions of intellectual property rights that we live under today. They're widely known for pursuing the harshest punishments for those who use their characters without permission and they've put pressure on governments to add more copyright language to treaties and international trade deals so they can fight the bootlegs in markets where the US law can't yet reach.

So why not nudge the public, especially children, to see such breaches of sacred copyright law to be just as malicious as Disney sees it? Again, they basically equate bootlegging to human trafficking! Really think about that for a second. They're doing more than tugging on heartstrings here.

And then there's how they resolve the whole conflict. Of course, Chip's cynicism about nostalgia turns out to be naive and short-sighted. "Getting the gang back together" saves the day. Ignoring cliched plot elements from old Chip n' Dale episodes bites them in the ass. Obsessive knowledge of the series and nostalgic collecting are together the keys to defeating the villains' plot and literally saving Dale's life, respectively.

Non-Brand-Specific Cola and Other Misc Annoyances

This is something that probably irks me more than most people, but I'm including it anyway. At one point, Chip and Dale say the same thing at the same time and go into a short jinx gag, but instead of saying the classic, "Jinx, you owe me a Coke!" they say, "Jinx, you owe me a non-brand-specific cola!" The joke here is that they don't want to invoke the trademarked name because they couldn't afford a license for it. But Disney can totally afford to license that trademark. The freaking Coca-Cola polar bear is a villain in the movie! He has more screen time than either Monterey Jack or Gadget, for god's sake!

It's really the kind of joke that you'd hear from small creators and low-budget studios, who would write it because it's their reality. Disney put it in this movie because their writers correctly see the humor of it. But that humor ends up toothless because there's no truth behind it. Disney could have said Coke. They just didn't because they wanted to pretend. They put in a line that sounds funny at first but doesn't really work when you think about it.

[[And I know you're not supposed to overthink humor, but this whole post is me being a cynical spoilsport, okay?]]

And the jokes usually do land when they hang a lampshade on basically every possible reference. There are close-for-comfort references to the fandom's obsessive adoration and likewise its obsessive vitriol. Gadget can get a laugh when she points out that her character is functionally identical to the TV series, but it's still true that her character in the movie is criminally underdeveloped. Again, I'll tell you that I enjoyed the movie at first watch; I only had a problem when I scratched through its wafer-thin veneer.

So yeah, honestly kudos to all the creators involved in making of Chip n' Dale. JK Simmons was fantastic as always, and I had some real laughs. The movie is a fun respite from our otherwise gloomy world. I just can't help but occasionally peek behind the curtain at all the corporate machinery churning behind the scenes and see some of its output for the propaganda that it truly is.

Three and a half stars.