Two estranged chipmunks reunite to find an old friend.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
Starring John Mulaney and Andy Samberg
Review by Jon Kissel
It’s easy to imagine a young Shaffer watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit in theaters and being impressed by the fourth wall breaks and meta character of that film. That’s not exactly the direction the Lonely Island would go down, but it does feature heavily in modern comedy. Chip N Dale comes in at the tail end of this trend, such that if it was done badly, it would be unwatchable. Stale jokes like anything involving the Uncanny Valley exist alongside instantly dated jokes like the inclusion of Ugly Sonic (Tim Robinson), but through a combination of voice acting and commitment to the bit, it all works pretty well. Even the horrid trend of animated characters being forced to rap doesn’t send me screaming from the room, and instead becomes the funniest sequence in the film. Chip N Dale stays likable in spite of the constant threatening presence of everything I hate about meta comedy.
Casting actors like Samberg, Mulaney, and Robinson means that they’re going to find the most humor in any given line. Even someone like JK Simmons as a corrupt police captain made of putty is capable of revving his persona to its maximal output. Comedies should cast actors capable of being comedic, which brings us to Kiki Layne. She plays a dedicated human cop and a fan of Chip and Dale’s old show, and it’s a dreadful performance. Acting opposite CGI and animation has got to be disorienting for actors. Most of Layne’s scenes are between her and characters that are going to be added in later, so some amount of her wooden line reading can be chalked up to the fact that she’s alone on a set, talking to herself with no one to react against. However, she was also blown off the screen in If Beale Street Could Talk, to the point where it actively detracted from an otherwise excellent film, so two data points is a trend. The script doesn’t help her, giving the character a toxic combination of earnestness about her job and a childlike devotion to a decades-old kid series.
Layne’s failure notwithstanding, Chip N Dale is a perfectly fine baby’s-first-deconstruction. I continue to dread the future of cinema and the embrace of mediocrity that Disney especially is responsible for, but Chip N Dale is just barely on the better side of mediocre. As long as there are gifted comedic minds who can’t get their real projects off the ground, they can fill their wallets making cash grab projects like this one better than they deserve to be. C+