Rugrats Movie [1998]

The first theatrical film from the popular Nickelodeon TV series became the surprise hit of the 1998 holiday box-office crunch, trouncing the highly competitive kids market. The key ingredient to the Rugrats' success is the writing. Venturing into their first theatrical movie, the pals--including the intrepid diaper-wearing Tommy Pickles, the nervous Chuckie, the twins Lil and Phil, and the wonderfully prissy Angelica--garble English into funny prose ("I want those fugitives back in custard-y!") and use movie references in their fantasy life. The opening here is a dead-on spoof of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The big news for the movie is that Tommy gets a new baby brother, named Dylan (or Dil for short). The rest of the film has no real plot but is a series of adventures as the clan gets lost in the forest riding an inventive Reptar wagon that is the '90s equivalent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Parents search for the kids, the kids learn new lessons, everyone goes home happy. The Rugrats Movie is not as wildly appealing as A Bug's Life but is far goofier and wackier with its animation. There's also a tremendous sense of joy that is often missing from cartoons these days, and the songs used in the film--from such diverse musicians as Busta Rhymes, Iggy Pop, Lisa Loeb, Lou Rawls, Beck, and Devo--add to the fun. It's an acquired taste, but the creators' first efforts to take the 10-minute TV sketches into an 80-minute feature pay off. The video contains a short (Winslow Doc) from Nickelodeon's series CatDog. Although the animation is similar, one can only hope the series does not reach the popularity of Rugrats. --Doug Thomas

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