“The Rugrats Movie” arrives just in time for the holidays to delight fans of the wildly popular Nickelodeon TV series featuring the adventures of the world’s most precocious babies. They’re actually perfectly normal kids; it’s just that they speak and move and reason at a breathtakingly early age. As a work of animation this Paramount release is fresh and witty, rich in its colors and jaunty in style.
As ideal and welcome a family entertainment as it is, a word of caution is in order. Paramount is proclaiming that it’s “an adventure for anyone who’s ever worn diapers.” Yet for lots of people their enjoyment of “Rugrats” will be in inverse proportion to how much time has passed since they were in diapers themselves. In other words, by all means take the kiddies, but don’t be surprised to find your attention wandering.
Directors Norton Virgien and Igor Kovalyov and writers David N. Weiss and J. David Stem begin and conclude their film with a fantasy homage to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which aptly suggests that from the perspective of the Rugrat kids their adventures are no less amazing. Its story is set in motion when our hero, stalwart 1-year-old Tommy Pickles (voice of E.G. Daily), now has a baby brother, Dil (voice of Tara Charendoff).
Tommy’s 3-year-old know-it-all cousin Angelica (voice of Cheryl Chase) warns Tommy that his parents will be neglecting him in favor of Dil, and when the newborn’s presence does begin to cramp Tommy’s style, he and his friends, worry-wart Chuckie (voice of Christine Cavanaugh) and the easy-going 15-month-old DeVille twins (both voiced by Kath Soucie) who live next door to Tommy, decide to return Dil to the hospital where he was born.
But when Tommy and his pals board his inventor-father’s sleigh-like Reptar Wagon, the kids wind up in a forest where all the traditional thrills and chills and resulting life lessons about the value of family, friendship and bravery ensue. Adding to the fun in the wilderness is the presence of a pack of lost circus monkeys.
What is most likely to impress adults is that the world of the Rugrats is not idealized or homogenized. Its people look real and are ethnically diverse, and they live on a street that also looks not unlike one you can find all over Los Angeles. Tommy learns to love and protect Dil, but “The Rugrats Movie” is warm yet minus the gooey sentimentality of so many animated movies for kids. With its lilting score and pleasant occasional songs, this Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo production has success written all over it.
* MPAA rating: G. Times guidelines: suitable for all ages.
‘The Rugrats Movie’
E.G. Daily: Voice of Tommy Pickles
Christine Cavanaugh: Voice of Chuckie Finster
Kath Soucie: Voices of Phillip and Lillian DeVille
Cheryl Chase: Voice of Angelica Pickles
Tara Charendoff: Dylan Pickles
A Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies presentation. Directors Norton Virgien and Igor Kovalyov. Producers Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo. Executive producers Albie Hecht and Debby Beece. Screenplay by David N. Weiss and J. David Stem. Music Mark Mothersbaugh. Art director Dima Malanitchev. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
In general release.