Reviewed by: Jay Levitz
Nickelodeon Films | Running Time: 81 minutes | Starring: Bruce Willis, Jodi Carlisle, Christine Cavanaugh, Lacey Chabert, Melanie Chartoff | Writer: Kate Boutilier | Directors: Norton Virgien, John Eng | Produced by: Kate Boutilier | Distributor: Paramount
“Rugrats Go Wild” is the only animated adventure marketed for children being offered in theaters right now, besides FINDING NEMO. The question many parents may be asking themselves before deciding whether to take their little ones: Why is this TV-based cartoon rated PG, and what’s meant by “mild, crude humor” as an explanation of that rating?
Simply, the RUGRATS cartoons make jokes about diapers. Dirty, stinky diapers. It’s rated PG for potty (mild, crude) humor. Will your kids laugh? They might. Especially if they’re already fans of the TV series on Nickelodeon. Will your family be strengthened and encouraged by the time spent at the theater? Sadly, quite the opposite.
RUGRATS GO WILD’s main characters are smart, sometimes neurotic babies whose language only we can understand. Neglected by their parents, they fall into many adventures, led by Tommy Pickles, who dreams of one day becoming like his television hero, wildlife expert Nigel Thornberry, or, as he pronounces in baby-speak, “Nigel Strawberry.”
One fears for the future of these fictional children, however, as their parents are shown, alternately, to be mean, cowardly, selfish, and spiteful toward one another, using much of the same kind of dialogue you can find on prime-time sitcoms in order to put one another down. At one point, a grown woman yells, “You’re an idiot!” to another parent. (To learn about more appropriate Biblical parenting, visit our FAMILY ANSWERS section.
AUTHOR’S NOTEDuring the screening of the PG-rated RUGRATS, I was surprised to see a series of commercials, run through AMC Theatres, which were at least PG-13 level. One Starburst commercial featured various people’s bottoms as its visual gimmick, using the tagline, “Keep your butt company” Following that, a long Coca-Cola commercial was devoted exclusively to the way women lust after male race car drivers. In one shot, a woman with a wedding ring is shown fondling the bottom of a driver, as she has her photo taken with him. AMC Theatres needs to be more careful about the types of commercials they choose to inflict on children (and adults) before films—especially films marketed to children.
Since the adults are mostly buffoons, the children fend for themselves after Tommy’s father shipwrecks his own family and two others on a seemingly deserted island. For nearly half of the movie’s running time, the children roam through the jungle without their parents aware of their absence. While exploring, they meet the Thornberrys, another dysfunctional Nickelodeon cartoon-family who recently starred in their own movie (THE WILD THORNBERRYS).
When Mrs. Thornberry tells Mr. Thornberry, “I think we should split up,” Mr. Thornberry immediately assumes she’s asking for a divorce and pleads against her, though she only actually wants to help him find a rare leopard. The jungle cat eventually turns up to threaten the babies and their wise-cracking dog, voiced by Bruce Willis. (By the way, if you or a friend is considering divorce, please see our answer: Under what conditions may Christians divorce and remarry?)
Taking kids to movies is a much more intense experience than allowing them to watch television, and RUGRATS GO WILD makes the experience even more intense, using the aforementioned leopard, a man-eating lion and alligator, plus a frightening sequence where the babies fly off a cliff in their jeep, landing unharmed.
The film goes out of its way to gross-out its audience with shots of bird guano hitting a spoiled little girl’s face and pictures of kids defecating on various objects. A pair of twins debates the merits of swallowing insects and their dog claims a diaper he ate was “spicy.” Again, “mild, crude humor.”
That said, the animation is interesting and the sheer wit of the children is engaging. Tim Curry is very funny in his voice-characterization of Nigel Thornberry, traipsing through the wilderness and losing his memory at one point, causing him to believe he’s only a toddler.
Later in the film, as the babies cling to life in another threatening situation, Nigel’s diversionary tactic, singing the song “Old McDonald” using shadow puppets and Latin names of animals, was rather amusing.
Overall, though, if you would like your children to learn something new and view some positive adult role models this summer, take them to FINDING NEMO over RUGRATS. If they’ve seen NEMO already, take them again and learn some new fish species names. Your family deserves better entertainment than RUGRATS GO WILD.