Disney’s new live-action/animated hybrid feature Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers Director Akiva Schaffer’s film is the perfect example of all that is wonderful and terrible about the current era of Hollywood reboots. In its frantic attempt to illuminate the warm fuzzy nostalgic centers of your brain, Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers forget that throwbacks to the good old days really aren’t enough to make these sorts of big-screen reinventions work. But what makes the film so odd is how its sense of humor makes it seem like Disney is trying to poke fun at itself in a way that doesn’t exactly work.
Set in a world where the Rescue Rangers late 80s cartoon was one of the first TV gigs Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) landed, the live action Tic and Tac film tells the story of how its titular pair of chipmunks first met in childhood and became celebrities. As the only two cartoon chipmunks in their school full of larger cartoon animals and human children, Chip and Dale become fast friends whose shared love of comedy eventually leads to them becoming a pair of friends. relatively successful performers. Following Rescue Rangers‘ cancellation, the chipmunks go their separate ways, and while Dale chooses to hold on in Hollywood, Chip ultimately decides to become an insurance salesman.
After years of not speaking to each other, the chipmunks are reunited when news comes in that one of their original mates Rescue Rangers castmates disappeared – a disappearance that could be linked to the series of “bootleggings” terrorizing Hollywood. Disney went meta before with movies like Ralph breaks the internet who jokingly acknowledged the studio’s existence as a cultural and economic juggernaut. But Tic and TacDan Gregor and Doug Mand’s script looks a lot like a snapshot of this current moment where entertainment giants are encouraging audiences to view all of their IP catalogs as interconnected universes and movies as crossover opportunities.
The idea of classic Disney characters like The little Mermaid‘s Flounder being washed from has-beans dodging bill collectors has a certain charm to it. But each of Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers Self-deprecating jokes carry the unmistakable aftertaste of a megacorporation trying to crack jokes about itself that just don’t work because they come out of Disney characters’ mouths. While making fun of herself, Tic and Tac ends up inadvertently illustrating just how powerful a company like Disney is, and how easily that power can lead to over-the-top takes on nostalgia that play like ominous signs of metaverses to come.
Visually, Tic and Tac is a mixed bag in several senses of the expression. Unlike Dale, who chooses to use CGI “surgery” out of a desire to remain marketable, Chip – along with most of the film’s animated characters – remains 2D and cell-shaded. While the different aesthetic styles of the characters generally work when presented as a pervasive gag on the dynamics of the world of Tic and Tac, in visually convoluted moments where the characters interact, their styles sometimes collide to the point of breaking the illusion. necessary for the film to make sense.
Like many reboots attempting to appeal to multiple generations of fans as well as newcomers, Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers sounds like a story that’s not quite sure what it wants to be. While the central plot that pairs Tick and Tock with Detective Ellie Whitfield (Kiki Layne) feels like it’s meant to be a starting point for new fans, the film also tries to give others plenty of time. Original Rescue Rangers: Gadget (Tress MacNeille), Zipper (Dennis Haysbert), and Monterey Jack (Eric Bana). Everything would be fine if it wasn’t for the way Tic and TacDisney’s surprisingly long list of cameos and cartoon hits from beyond the walled garden feel like unnecessary adornments cluttering what might otherwise have been a perfectly solid welcoming return of its main characters.
Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers arrives on Disney Plus on May 20.