Rugrats in Paris: The Movie
Rated G, 78 min. Directed by Paul Demever, Stig Bergqvist. Voices by Jack Riley, Susan Sarandon, Debbie Reynolds, Michael Bell, Elizabeth Daily, John Lithgow, Christine Cavanaugh, Cheryl Chase, Kath Soucie.
It's been nearly a decade since animators Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo debuted the hyper-imaginative Rugrats tots on the Nickelodeon cable station, and the series has not only survived but flourished in the interim. And why not? Since day one Rugrats has been a smart, smart show, geared to appeal to the five-to-10-year-old set without pandering or playing down to its audience, while being equally able to toss off the occasional gag for mom and dad sitting up there on the couch alongside junior. Its coterie of goggle-eyed droolers -- leader Tommy Pickles (Daily), his baby brother Dil, lovable crybaby Chuckie (Cavanaugh), twins Phil and Lil (Soucie), and pre-school diva Angelica (Chase) -- are both endearing and enduring animated adventurers in a world they never made (not yet, anyway). 1998's The Rugrats Movie was the series' big-screen debut and produced middling results. Rugrats in Paris is a far superior effort, due in part to a return to the series' personal, character-driven storylines (the first film was less a cohesive story than a series of distressingly scary adventures and animated set-pieces). As indicated by the title, the babies and their parents are off to Paris when wacky inventor dad (Riley) is summoned to repair the giant mechanical Reptar critter that he designed for EuroReptarland, a clever swipe at Disney, distributor Paramount's crosstown rivals. Once there, the vapid and cruel park manager Coco La Bouche (Sarandon, with all the stops out) plots to marry Chuckie's widowed dad Chas (Bell), thereby assuring her future EuroReptarland ownership. Unlike the standard Rugrats story, the focus here is on Chuckie instead of Tommy, a nice change of pace that gives the meek, blubbery redhead a chance to prove he's every bit the tuff-tyke as pal Tommy. The lessons kids will presumably digest are many -- self-empowerment, the necessity for patient resourcefulness, and how to deal with single-parent syndrome -- with nary a preachy line in earshot. Over the years Rugrats has garnered not only a dedicated following of youngsters but also teens and twentysomethings who find the show's clever mix of wild, kid's-eye imaginings and subtle parody a refreshing change of pace from, say, the explosive (albeit wacky) hijinks and Acme anvils of the Cartoon Network. Both the series and the films depict a mix of real-world situations (new baby jealousy, kidhood ageism, et cetera) and some very funny flights of fantasy that taken together are unlike any other kid's show running right now (only Nickelodeon's tweenager series Doug comes close). If you're a parent, you could do a heck of a lot worse than taking the spawn off to catch Rugrats in Paris and if you're a kid, well, you probably already knew that anyway.
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