The second Rugrats movie begins with a wedding: little Tommy Pickles’ widowed grandfather, Lou, is finally marrying his late-in-life flame, Lulu. It is a joyous event for the Pickles family and their neighbors, but it leaves one of young Tommy’s friends — Chuckie Finster — wishing he had a mommy like other children.
Long-time viewers of the hit Nickelodeon cartoon know that for years the "Rugrats" universe was static. The babies have now spent more than a decade in diapers and never aged. After a certain point, the writers began running out of ideas, and to freshen the series they began introducing new major characters.
The first was Tommy’s brother, Dil Pickles, who made his debut in The Rugrats Movie. But as a newborn, he can’t keep up with the other kids. Even in Rugrats in Paris he still functions largely as a prop.
The second movie surpasses the first in changing the main cast. Not only does Tommy’s grandfather marry, Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh) is about to get his wish of having a new mommy and — unbeknownst to him — he’s also going to get a energetic new sister to force him out of his shell.
The tone of this movie departs from the spirit of the original TV series more than its predecessor, but that is required by the plot. (Getting a new mommy and sister for Chuckie in a single tale pushes the limits of what otherwise would happen in a "Rugrats" story.)
Encouraged by his adult friends, Chuckie’s equally timid father Chaz (Michael Bell) is finally dating again after the (apparent) death of his wife shortly after Chuckie was born. He tries an Internet dating service… with poor results.
But through the most improbable, never-happen-in-the-real-world-in-a-million-years misunderstanding, he and the rest of the main cast end up in romantic Paris, the City of Lights.
What’s brought them there? Tommy’s father is a toymaker who needs to repair one of his giant mechanical Reptars in Euro-Reptar-Land, a Japanese theme park in downtown Paris. (For those who aren’t "Rugrats" afficianados, Reptar is the series’ equivalent of Godzilla, though children oddly view him as a strong, protective figure rather than a mayhem-causing, chicken-stealing dinosaur.)
Once in Paris, events take a turn for the dark (or as dark as it gets in the pastel-colored "Rugrats" universe). It is revealed that the theme park’s sinister proprietor, Coco LaBouche (Susan Sarandon), is in need of a husband, and selfish Angelica tells her where she can find one. Soon Coco is ruthlessly wooing Chaz.
Unfortunately, she’s not very good at it, and with good reason.
When pondering why she has never been able to find a husband, an assistant points out: "Because you hate children and men find you a heartless shrew." Or, as one of the babies puts it, "She’s not a very nice lady. She’s too pointy."
To help her over this limitation, Coco employs the aid of a prim but charming Japanese assistant named Kira Watanabe (Julia Kato), who has an adventurous two-year old daughter named Kimi (Dionne Quan). Kira serves as an unseen Cyrano De Bergerac for Coco’s romantic designs, but it eventually becomes obvious to Kira that her boss doesn’t love either Chaz or Chuckie.
Coco’s response: "Which is which again?"
What follows is a desperate attempt by the babies and Kira to stop Chuckie’s father from marrying the evil theme park tycoon — a manic "get me to the church (Notre Dame Cathedral) on time" chase with giant robotic monsters tearing up the streets of Paris.
Oh, I should warn you that there are a number of highly implausible things in this movie. To be frank, there are plot holes you could drive an enormous mechanical snail through. But don’t worry, your children won’t notice them.
There are also things to please adults. The animation frequently is gorgeous. There are clever allusions to movies grown-ups will have seen, including Lady and the Tramp, King Kong, Jurassic Park, and even The Godfather.
The movie also is brutally honest about the French national character, and many parents watching on video will smile when an American dog hikes his leg on the base of that major French national symbol, the Eiffel Tower.
Rugrats in Paris offers a lot to tug at the heart strings. You gotta love cute babies and their not-entirely-successful attempts to understand the adult world around them. Family values are strongly stressed. We get to hear Chuckie’s first word in grown-up talk. (As with many babies, it’s "No!") And in the end the film delivers a genuinely heart warming and wedding-cake splattered finale.
(Written by Jimmy Akin) The film is a mixed success. Fans of “The Wild Thornberrys“ will enjoy it, but it doesn’t have much ability to reach beyond its core audience.
(Written by Jimmy Akin) When Cartoons Collide!!! That’s what they could have used as a tag-line for Rugrats Go Wild.
(Written by Jimmy Akin) Changes are coming to the pastel-colored Rugrats universe, and The Rugrats Movie brings them. It is the biggest thing that has happened to the series in its nearly ten year run: a new Rugrat is being born.
(Review by Jimmy Akin) The City of Townsville… is in desperate need of heroes!
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.