Thursday, November 16, 2000

Toon time won't bore adults

Movie: Rugrats in Paris--The Movie

Posted on Thu, Nov 16, 2000 at 4:00 AM

***
Our Rating: 3.00

Even the adults in the crowd need some comic relief during a kiddie movie, and the Rugrats' second big-screen adventure offers exactly that, in a front-loaded reference to "The Godfather." Anjelica Pickles (the voice of Cheryl Chase), the know-it-all cousin to likable Tommy (E.G. Daily) and messy baby brother Dil (Tara Charendoff), holds court in a backroom during the wedding of their Grandpa Lou (Joe Alasky) to Lulu (Debbie Reynolds). In the background, a DJ (Kasey Casem) gets the entertainment going.

Anjelica, calling herself the Bobfather, begins to recite the familiar "You come to me on the day of ... " speech, deals with a wooden horse's head, hijacks a pacifier for a young supplicant and winds up making a promise to find a new mommy for sad, freckle-faced Chuckie Finster (Christine Kavanaugh), and a new wife for Chuckie's nerdy but nice dad Chas (Michael Bell). The moral: Make sure the kids are sound asleep the next time you pop a mafia movie into the VCR.

"Rugrats in Paris," probably a wee bit more entertaining than 1998's The Rugrats Movie, also an extension of the popular animated Nickelodeon television series, eventually gets around to making hit-and-miss references to all sorts of films, including "A Few Good Men," "Godzilla," "King Kong," "101 Dalmatians" and Jackie Chan movies. There's also a montage set to the ubiquitous Baha Men hit "Who Let the Dogs Out." All, of course, are likely to sail over the heads of the intended audience -- say, toddlers up to those in second-grade or so.

But that won't matter a whit to the tiny tykes, sure to be caught up in the ultra-bright colors; the quirky, attractively askew design, a mix of computer and hand-drawn animation; the bouncy, imaginative score, by Devo founder Mark Mothersbaugh; and a straightforward story told strictly from the point of view of the kids.

"The Rugrats," this time out, leave the warmth and security of heartland America of Paris, where forgetful inventor Stu Pickles has been summoned to take care of a major malfunction at a theme park called EuroReptarland (Euro Disney, anyone?) So he loads up family and friends for the long flight overseas, during which the kids wreak all sorts of annoying havoc. It might be argued, as one parent suggested to me, that Tommy, Chuckie, Angelica and their mischief-making cohorts aren't exactly good role models. Then again, this typically messy crowd of kids seems far less of a threat to the Republic than some other animated television characters we might name.

Paris brings water-splashing fun with the bidet and other adventures, including some unpleasant encounters with Coco La Bouche (Susan Sarandon), the mean, manipulative, children-hating manager of EuroReptarland, and her trusty assistant Jean-Claude (John Lithgow). Coco, it seems, will only be able to remain in the good graces of the park's Japanese owner if she changes her ways.

As quick as you can say 'voila!,' Anjelica has discovered a way to fulfill her promise of finding a new mommy for Chuckie. But wait. There's another potential romantic interest in the picture: Coco's sweet secretary, Kira Watanabe (Julia Kato), the mother of little Kimi (Dionne Quan), is also looking for love. Will romance blossom under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe? No secrets divulged here.

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