Rugrats Go WildRugrats Go Wild (2003) Feature Length Theatrical Animated Film by Dave Koch
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- Klasky Csupo, Nickelodeon Movies
- Animated Characters: Marianne Thornberry, Eliza Thornberry, Nigel Thornberry, Donnie Thornberry, Debbie Thornberry, Darwin, Kimmi Watanabe-Finster, Phil Deville, Lil Deville, Dil Pickles, Chuckie Finster, Angelica Pickles, Tommy Pickles, Drew Pickles, Didi Pickles, Stu Pickles, Charlotte Pickles, Chaz Finster, Kira Finster, Howard Deville, Betty Deville, Susie Carmichael, Piki.
- Originally Released in 2003.
- Running Time: 76 minutes.
Cartoon Production Information:
This feature was released in "Odorama."
This film was ranked by Box Office Mojo at #25 on its list of worst openings for films at 3,000 or more theaters. It opened at $11,556,869 (29.3% of its $39,402,572 total gross) in 3,041 theaters, or $3,800 per screen.
I refuse to believe that bunk. We do not apply such reasoning to different genres if they're all meant towards the same age group, and so this particular cry for leniency stems purely from a belief that children are somehow stupider than adults on the whole. But I have seen children cheer for their parents when they pick up Spirited Away at Blockbuster, and boo when they pick up Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, so I do not think that mindful literary construction is lost on children; they merely lack the words to articulate back to us what they actually do understand. In other words, I'm pulling no punches with this review, because there's no good reason to do so.
Rugrats Go Wild is the latest film to come out of Klasky-Cuspo and Nickelodeon, combining the two franchises that currently have acquired one or two films of their own. Why meld the two? Easy answer: The executives thought that combining the shows would combine the shows' audiences. (Whatever genius mathematician came up with that idea must not have studied Venn diagrams, which dictate that by combining the two you get LESS audience by demanding viewers be fans of both properties.) More proof that the whole thing is a marketing ploy: The film comes in a kind of Smellovision; when a number flashes at the bottom-right of the screen, you're supposed to inhale from a corresponding scratch'n'sniff card. They did not hand out cards at my showing (some critics got cards at their screenings, and some have noted that the cards are available at Burger King; I certainly wasn't about to pay more than the $7.50 ticket for this film for the benefit of a Whopper), and I consider myself luckier for it. I doubt that knowing what the Thornberries' peanut butter smelled like would've enhanced the experience in any way.
Did anything work in this film? Well, the voice actors were as game as they always are, although that's more of a compliment for the Rugrats' crew than the Thornberries' crew (Debbie Thornberry's teen-witch voice is like a blackboard being scraped). I must certainly give props to Nancy Cartwright, who is apparently the replacement voice for Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh being the original), something I didn't catch until the end credits. For the most part, the Rugrats' voice cast is a crew of seasoned voice veterans and they make the entire movie at least bearable. Unfortunately, Tim Curry and Bruce Willis are both wasted talents in their roles, and I long for both to be in a better film.
Naturally, the real problem is the script, as you could probably guess. As a crossover story, it fails in even creating a parallel character conflict for both shows' casts to bond over and exchange wisdom about; instead, everything is left to schtick until they all just have to save lives. The purpose of this crossover, then, is apparently not to combine the humanity of each show, but to appease meaningless "what if" questions. What if Debbie and Angelica met? What if Donnie and Chuckie switched places, since their character designs are similar? What if Spike could talk; would he do the only Taxi Driver gag that kids can get? In the end, that's all the film amounts to. It's like two unrelated episodes of Rugrats and Thornberries crashed on the highway, and this wreckage is the result.
That's an appropriate image, in fact, given this film's ludicrously breakneck pace. With all of the cute what if's to answer, there was apparently no time to insert anything even resembling a slow, character-revealing moment. (Well, one exception: Lil's decision to stop eating bugs, and Phil's reaction, is probably the only moment in the film where the pace stops and lets a character actually react to something. It's the only saving moment of the film.) Thus, Rugrats Go Wild is a film uninterested in its own events. Dire situations ranging from physical threats like shipwrecking to emotional minefields like absentee parenting are brushed over without a second thought, because the film just has too much schtick to get to in the alloted ninety minutes. If the film isn't connecting with itself, how are we meant to connect with it? One last thing (and I can't believe Roger Ebert didn't point this out): this is an Idiot Plot. Nothing would've occurred if the characters weren't all acting like idiots. They get shipwrecked because they're idiots, they lose the babies because they're idiots, Spike puts the babies in danger because he's an idiot. They even had to make Nigel Thornberry a literal idiot so he wouldn't fix everything too quickly.
You may have read all of this and thought, "Yeah, but will the kids like it?" Here's my observation: The showing that I attended was kid-packed. They laughed at the first few baby-butt jokes, but by the second half of the film, they were fairly silent. Some kids walked out happy, some walked out tired (it was a later showing), and so forth. Nobody was talking about the film at all. It was just as I'd feared: for the kids, this film is a nonentity, an obligatory event to attend merely because they liked the shows. The kids in my theater got nothing out of it, so I cannot in good conscience recommend this film either to adults or children. Go see Finding Nemo if you haven't already, or go rent the aforementioned Spirited Away. I guarantee you that nobody in your family will miss much.
One and a half (*1/2) stars out of four (****)
This review first appeared at Toon Zone.
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