Crawling back into theaters two years after the blockbuster success of their first feature film Nickelodeon's "The Rugrats Movie" Tommy, Phil, Lil, Angelica, and Chuckie return to the big screen in "Rugrats in Paris" (IMDb listing). Also returning are the unprecedented amount of toilet gags that should horrify America, and that comfortable animation style that looks awful. However both, like "The Rugrats" themselves, are accepted breaks from the norm in family entertainment. Done with charm and a sophistication, "Rugrats in Paris" is far more tolerable than it's predecessor, even rising to levels of parody and pacing that matches "The Simpsons."
Hey, it's hard not to love a animated children's film that opens with a parody of "The Godfather."
"Rugrats in Paris" takes the gang to France, where little Chuckie and his father visit a Parisian theme park in search of the new mother for the lonely little boy. Like any "Rugrat" adventure, or any kid's film in general, things go horribly wrong and the tykes are let loose to wreak havoc. The havoc is heralded by Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out," a song with such an enormous following that all the children in attendance at my screening made sure to scream out a "Woof Woof!" when the cue came.
As these types of films go (and I have not seen the television series), I am continually impressed that "Rugrats" remains so intelligent, even as it revels in the flatulence jokes. It's a rather curious mixture that the creative team behind both "Rugrats" films pulls off with grace. "Paris" goes one further by retaining a delicate melancholy side with Chuckie's soft pain over the loss of his biological mother. This subplot leads to a remarkably conceived sequence where the two-year-old looks out the window on his airplane and watches the clouds in the sky form into moments he will never have with his deceased mother. It's a more honest moment than any live-action film has mustered recently. Extra credit goes to Christine Cavanaugh for her wonderful voice work as Chuckie.
For the kids, "Rugrats in Paris" is a no-brainer. A bright, funny romp that will please the fans of the show. For parents, the film is equally engaging. Maybe Disney should take some notes on how to create light, punchy distractions for the family.
Filmfodder Grade: B