Review | Tico and Teco: Defenders of the Law (2022)

If the rule in Hollywood is, today more than at any time due to the streaming wars, to reuse old properties, remake films and series and flood the market with sequels, restart and spin off, thus erasing any trace of originality from what’s on offer, it’s always nice to see when something like this is done with heart and mind and, even more so, massive doses of sarcasm and irony. And it’s especially unexpected – and welcome – when the product is from Disney and the protagonists are the adorable chipmunks Tico and Teco in a soft restart/ continuation of animated series Tico and Teco: defenders of the lawbroadcast between 1989 and 1990, which turns out to be, in fact, the closest to the inimitable Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In terms of films mixing animation and real actors, the 80s masterpiece of Robert Zemeckis reigns supreme, not least because it manages to transcend that categorization, but the feature debut with Tico and Teco (respectively John Mulaney and Andy Samberg make normal and unmodulated vocals, a wise production choice not to create parallels with this another squirrel franchise which mixes animation and live action) is a beautiful, conscious exploration of an industry that keeps redoing everything and grafting “benchmarks” left and right, even at the expense of the macro story, to appeal to fans of all ages who, more than take advantage of it, demand it and, ironically, as they think it should be, pout and tap their feet when they don’t see on the small screens what they imagined in their daydreams… Tico and Teco: defenders of the law it manages to both be an eye-opener for those who want to see and be a fun adventure in its own right.

And the trump card of the feature which began its gestation in 2014, going through several modifications until Akiva Schaffer going into production in 2019 is all about using sameness creatively. Roger Rabbit is, undeniably, the main inspiration – as well as the affection for the 80s series, we can’t forget – but what really rocks the work is a creative script written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand which reunites the two squirrels after they break up when Teco causes the cancellation of the original series to unravel the kidnapping of Montinho, or Monte, nicknamed Monterey Jack (Eric Bana), who was battling his addiction to stinky cheese (The Addiction Approach, which includes a tour of the Tico and Teco version of the opium dens portrayed in several classic films such as Once upon a time in America). But the investigative narrative line, the perfect pretext to bring back the two old friends, only forms the foundations of the book, which is much more concerned with the criticism it formulates.

After all, it’s fantastic that Disney bigwigs have overlooked the feature film’s current major gag, one that determines that Teco, in an attempt to stay relevant, underwent “CGI plastic surgery” to update its look, which creates Vale da Estranheza because he plays opposite Tico still in 2D and traditional animation (computer made, I’m sure, but you get the idea). Doesn’t the House of Mouse make a lot of money doing just that? After all, what The Lion King from 2019 if not the original film with an “updated look” for a generation which, at the same time as it likes to complain that Americans are doing remake non-American cinema because “Americans don’t like to read subtitles”, accepts, wants and likes CGI to replace classic animation. Genius just budges there for all the irony and sarcasm of it all and kudos to Disney for swallowing the joke.

But what about Vale da Estranheza itself, which takes a more than sensational approach after Tico and Teco, locating the smelly cheese vendor on DisneyWorld’s beautiful, colorful and leafy main street, are taken there, where animations that create this insurmountable barrier that prevents diving into the story – and yes, the polar express is rightly cited as the ultimate example of this, doubly hilarious, since it also comes from Zemeckis in his cinematic phase where he got lost on this dark path – in order to find out who the big bad is? Of course, between Teco in CGI and Vale da Estranheza there is the deluge of references more than expected, but even they come with a double purpose at least, the famous beats, something that is remarkable when you realize that the production has been brave enough to bring the original voices of classic characters to the feature and even one of the professionals responsible for animating Roger Rabbit, in the very brief seconds he appears (because, of course, he appears ).

Tico and Teco: defenders of the law hits the target almost every time he shoots and he shoots mercilessly. Its problem lies in the “belly” that the scenario lets create towards the middle of the race, but that Schaeffer does everything to compensate visually. Not that the main narrative line is out of this world, because it certainly is not and not because there is the courage and the will to delve deeply into the transgression, since certain brakes can be noticed here and there, including in a special turnout made famous by deliberate internet leaks of a certain blue character in his less-than-ideal version, so to speak, but the long, seen beneath his obvious, studded surface cameos for fans to point fingers at TV every 15 seconds, it succeeds as a clever nostalgic adventure that makes the endings famous (and some less so) and its own premise something worth pointing out in the face of repeating the similarity that the Hollywood factory unleashes because it sells more (or does it sell more because it releases this type of product?). The unforgettable white rabbit who played with Bob Hoskin and Christopher Lloyd definitely appp-rovaria!

Tico and Teco: Defenders of the Law (Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers – USA, May 20, 2022)
Direction: Akiva Schaffer
Road map: Dan Gregor, Doug Mand
Cast: John Mulaney, Mason Blomberg, Andy Samberg, Juliet Donenfeld, KiKi Layne, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Flula Borg, Dennis Haysbert, Keegan-Michael Key, Tress MacNeille, Seth Rogen, JK Simmons, Tim Robinson, Chris Parnell, Da’Vone McDonald, Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett, Liz Cackowski, Rachel Bloom, Steven Curtis Chapman, Charles Fleischer, David Tennant, Alan Oppenheimer
Duration: 97 mins.

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