Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it seem flagrantly irresponsible to market a cartoon to kids in which a diaper brigade of babies have wonderful adventures when they wander away from their parents and get lost?
I've never seen the "Rugrats" TV show, but the plots of both nerve-grinding movies that the Nickelodeon series has spawned have involved children disappearing, and treated such events as a cornucopia of light-hearted entertainment.
I might be a little sensitive to the subject, but in a cultural climate in which kids seem to get kidnapped (and often murdered) more and more frequently, do we really want G-rated movies giving our little ones the impression that going missing is great fun?
The fact that talking tots meander the world at will is not my only qualm with "Rugrats in Paris," in which the show's drunkenly-drawn and word-slurring tykes have the run of a Japanese monster theme park in France. The story also leaves a lot to be desired. It's about the whiniest kid, named Chuckie, and his widowed father moping around in tandem wishing they could find a new mommy/wife.
They get their chance to meet exotic candidates when their neighbor, half-wit inventor Stu Pickles, gets summoned to Paris to repair one of his creations, a giant Godzilla-like robot called Reptar that's gone haywire at the amusement park. Stu gets chewed out over the phone by the park's Cruella DeVil-style manager (voice of Susan Sarandon), who tells him to fly over immediately to affect repairs -- and to bring all his family and friends with him if he likes. (I know the target audience kids won't take any notice, but may I just say: Yeah, riiiighht!)
All the "Rugrats" characters -- eight toddlers and their largely clueless parents -- jump on a plane to the City of Lights and while Stu works on the Reptar, Chuckie fantasizes about a theme park princess becoming his new mommy. But the joint's macabre manager has another idea. Because she's bumping up against her company's glass ceiling for single women, she starts tyrannically courting Chuckie's milksop pop hoping to score a quickie for-show marriage.
Meanwhile, the kids get lost in the park and their parents never worry -- or even notice -- that they're gone.
Of course, it's ultimately up to the Rugrats to save Chuckie's pathetic daddy from the clutches of the domineering demimondaine, and that leads to the whole bunch of them stomping down the avenues of Paris inside the Reptar, on their way to stop a wedding at Notre Dame. (Again, the parents have barely taken notice that their 2- and 3-year-old kids haven't shown up for the nuptials on their own.)
Aside from their cutsey-poo kiddie malapropisms ("for feet's sake," "over my dead potty," etc.), the Rugrats themselves are almost uniformly unlikable, obnoxious or just plain mean -- another great lesson for impressionable youngsters. I'm not clear how they became the stars of a hit TV show, let alone big enough to earn two feature films. What's worse, these are feature films written and directed by people who seem to think the occasional grown-up reference (e.g. a sorry "Godfather" homage) will be enough to keep parents from fidgeting in their chairs like, well, little kids.
Maybe I'm missing something here. Maybe "Rugrats" fans will like this movie. Maybe if they do, one of them could explain the appeal to me. But no matter what they say, I don't think they could convince me the subconscious lessons taught in "Rugrats in Paris" are good for kids.
Run time: 78 mins
In Theaters: Friday 17th November 2000
Box Office USA: $74.2M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 55 Rotten: 18
IMDB: 6.1 / 10
Director: Stig Bergqvist
Starring: E.G. Daily as Tommy Pickles, Susan Sarandon as Coco LaBouche, John Lithgow as Jean-Claude, Tara Strong as Dil Pickles, Cheryl Chase as Angelica Pickles, Christine Cavanaugh as Chuckie Finster, Cree Summer as Susie Carmichael, Kath Soucie as Lil Deville / Phil DeVille / Betty DeVille, Michael Bell as Drew Pickels / Chaz Finsters, Sr., Tress MacNeille as Charlotte Pickles, Casey Kasem as Wedding DJ, Debbie Reynolds as Lulu Pickles, Joe Alaskey as Grandpa Lou Pickles, Mako Iwamatsu as Mr. Yamaguchi, Tim Curry as Sumo Singer
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