Featuring the Voices of: Andy Samberg, John Mulaney, Will Arnett, Keegan Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Eric Bana, Dennis Haysbert, Flula Borg, Tress MacNeille, Tim Robinson, Rachel Bloom, Jorma Taccone, and actual performances from Kiki Lane and JK Simmons.
Directed By: Akiva Schaffer
Where I Watched it: Disney Plus
English Audio Description Available?: Technically, yes.
Due to the nature of this review, which will be abundantly clear, I’ve chosen to not include the narration team behind this film. Read on, and discover why. It’s a personal choice, and I won’t be changing my mind. They should be allowed to Alan Smithee this narration.
The Plot: Possibly best discovered by yourself, this film takes a very different approach, and follows the same vein as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where humans and cartoons co-exist, and these cartoons are just actors going from gig to gig. But, Chip (Mulaney) and Dale (Samberg) grew up as friends, and launched their careers together, eventually leading to their own TV series, Rescue Rangers. But, eventually the show got cancelled, and these two former best friends haven’t spoken in years. But when one of their friends goes missing, Chip and Dale are on the case, and it feels like the good old days again.
What Works: I really do want to get into some other stuff, but I will say that this film is fan service at its finest, a well crafted original story that surpassed any notion you might have had about what a Rescue Ranger movie would have looked like. instead of just retreading the same old formula from the TV show, it reinvents the mold, but essentially does actually put the Rescue Rangers on the case. At the end of the day, while it very much reimagines the entire concept, it also does actually reboot it as well.
I actually cannot remember the last time I had this much fun with a film. The little child in me who rushed home from school so I could catch the afternoon block of Disney cartoons, from Ducktales to Darkwaing Duck and Goof Troop to Rescue rangers, seeing these guys back, and in such a fine form got me a little emotional. The villain here is brilliant, very well done, and the humor is exactly what you’d expect from a Lonely Islander.
So many great moments, from Chip’s disdain of rap, to a rather sad future for Flounder, and a brilliant mid credits sequence, everything just got thrown in like a kitchen sink, yet it all just made the project better. I know it won’t win any Oscars, but at the end of the year, don’t be surprised if this is still in my Top 10. It brought me the kind of joy I haven’t had from a film in so long I can’t even remember. Which is why…
What Didn’t Work/The Blind Perspective: It’s so disheartening to have such a grand level of disrespect from Disney. Not as a fan of Rescue Rangers, but as a consumer of their products, their movies. The actual choices made by Disney production executives that a blind and visually impaired audience should not be allowed the same experience as an audience with vision, is highly disrespectful and offensive. Disney might be going through culture wars, but turning their back to a disabled community isn’t a good look either way.
Audio Description is supposed to bridge the gap between those with sight and those without. It is supposed to level the playing field, so that we get as close to the same experience as humanly possible. It was decided by the production team at Disney that we should not get that here, and whaat we should get is an inferior experience. Our money is not as good as the money coming from a sighted audience, and therefore, I suppose that warranted this audio description. Disney commissioned audio description for this title, but in doing so, laid out parameters that prevented the description team from being able to actually include the myriad of cameos in the film. Schaffer and his production team went through and collected a very wide range of cartoon characters, much like who Framed Roger Rabbit did back in the day, and found cute ways to incorporate them into the film.
Some of these cameos are non-verbal, which means you won’t get any acknowledgement of characters standing around in the background, despite how many come from franchises you wouldn’t normally expect to see in a Disney film, ranging from South Park to Big Mouth, from Beavis and Butthead to Batman, and McGruff The Crime Dog to MC Skat Cat.
Even Disney’s own characters are taken off the table. A character pulled from Wreck It Ralph is simply referred to as a Donut Cop, instead of his character name from Penelope’s videogame. The villain selection is brilliant, but there’s another character that interacts with them briefly that isn’t mentioned by name. So you’d better be really solid on voice recognition, otherwise that joke will fly over your head. So really, before you say that Disney might not have had the rights… they’re actually doing it to their own characters as well. So not only are they not mentioning all the cartoon characters they went out of their way to pay for the rights to include in this film, but they’re shafting their own properties, which is even more of a baffling decision.
The only answer I can come up with is that Disney doesn’t care about it’s blind and visually impaired consumers, or they lack such an awareness that they make decisions for a community that they are not a part of, without ever listening to the feedback or expertise of those actually from the affected communities. Instead of having some random guy with 20/20 vision, who has never listened to audio description in his life, make major decisions about what to include and not include, perhaps he should leave that up to a team of people well versed in audio description, including some members of the blind community.
You might be just fine with being able to follow the main storyline. If that’s true, this film was never meant for you. This is a 100% fan service nostalgia bomb, that’s how it was crafted. you don’t go out of your way to get all these characters for no reason. That’s the gimmick here. The reason your sighted friends, and sighted critics keep posting positive reactions to this film, is for those cameos. Many people don’t know how Disney even got these characters included, and are stunned by what they got to see with their own eyes. For them, this experience was on another level. For us, we got what we got, and it wasn’t a lot.
I realize the complexity of calling out every single Easter egg in the film, but instead choosing to not call out any is the wrong side of this battle. You’ve taken your toys and went home. There was no compromise here. You made a blanket decision that our audience was of so little value, that we should not receive the same quality as a visually a led audience.
Should someone at Disney ever read this, let me say, I’m a huge fan generally. But this is unacceptable on a level which you clearly are incapable of understanding. I request that you re-record this audio description as soon as possible, a request I don’t make lightly, and have never made before. Sure, I’ve commented on Robodescription, and that’s a different monster altogether. But a human narrated project, that 100% missed the mark, is misrepresenting the product for which it was intended, and has put a portion of your audience in a box, telling them that their experience must be limited due to their disability. That we cannot have even an attempt at the same thing. I guess it’s my fault for being blind then. Right? I suppose I should have done something about that, instead of choosing blindness. My bad, Disney. Sorry to be an inconvenience to you.
“Some times, some crimes, go slipping through the cracks.” Sometimes indeed.
Final Thoughts: I’m left with a barrage of mixed emotions. I’ve been hurt by a brand I love, a company whose parks I’ve frequented enough that I could give someone directions around the parks (even now that I can’t see), and even after i slept on it, I still woke up with this sick feeling, this mixture of anger and sadness, that a film that was clearly made for me, has been given this audio description that does nothing except remind me how blind I am, how much I hate it, and myself for it. Had I never lost my vision, i would have been able to see every cool little cameo on my own, instead of having to rely on audio description in the first place. But now that I’m here, to know that Disney cares so little, has put me in an even worse place emotionally. It’s like a grab bag full of candy and broken glass. The candy is delicious, but every time you try to reach your hand inside, you get hurt and cut by the glass just trying to get the candy. And then, eventually, you just give up.
Except here, when decisions like this are made by a billion dollar corporation that has more than enough money to spring for audio description that serves our community, it ends up making me question my own self worth. It ends up putting me in a dark place, something that I don’t think Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer set out to do when they jumped on board this project.
The unintended side effect is instead a reminder of how much my life has changed, in ways that aren’t helpful, and have pulled me away from the one thing I loved enough to go to school for. The Cinema. It reminds me of all the things, the characters, the franchises that once made me happy, that I will never see again. So that’s the truth. My review is long, my YouTube review is long. But Disney left me not in a great place. And in some ways, this WordPress format for my reviews is as much a blog as it is a place for me to share these critiques.
This movie was everything. I want to watch it again, but I also don’t want to with the current audio description. I also find myself betweeen a rock and a hard place in recommending this title. Because, I believe the film alone should be watched, but I know my readers, especially those who would have picked up on all those little mentions, might have a similar reaction, realizing that this description just reminds them of everything they used to be able to do, and see, and now cannot.
Should you watch this film? Honestly, I don’t know.
Final Grade (of the movie, not taking into consideration the audio description): A