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RUGRATS IN PARIS: THE MOVIE

Reviewed by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Susan Sarandon, John Lithgow, E. G. Daily, Christine Cavanaugh, Kath Soucie
Directors:  Stig Bergqvist, Paul Demeyer
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  78 Minutes
Release Date:  March 27, 2001

Film ***1/2

Not being a big television fan, I went into Rugrats in Paris with little or no rudimentary knowledge of the show or its characters.  That didn’t stop me from enjoying the film…far from it.  I found the structure of the movie was conceived well enough to introduce me to and make me familiar with these little tykes very quickly…so much so, that I found myself cheerfully entangled in their little world, which was both funny and surprisingly touching.

The Rugrats have enjoyed success on the Nickelodeon cable channel for years.  Kids like them because the babies are the stars of the show, and life is often seen directly through their point of view.  Parents watch with the kids because there is a kind of sophistication to some of the humor that grown-ups can appreciate.  This movie is in that vain, beginning with a delightful send-up of The Godfather, and climaxing with a spoof of Godzilla movies that has to be seen to be believed.

The story centers around little Chuckie and his quest for a new mommy.  Fate brings the Rugrats and their families to Paris, where one of the fathers is called upon to fix a theme park’s biggest attraction (literally):  a gigantic animatronic robot of Reptar, who has controls so simple that a child can use them (ahem!).

There, Chuckie’s father Chas meets two potential candidates for marriage:  Coco (deliciously voiced by Susan Sarandon) is the wrong choice, as we see she is attempting to marry to further her career while secretly heartless and kid hating.  Kira, her assistant, is very obviously the right choice, but Coco has her designs and plans already in motion.

This movie is very funny, with a talented cast of voices bringing the characters to life.  There is enough slapstick and bodily function humor to please the little ones, but the characterizations, spoofs and witticisms will have the adults enjoying it as well.  Kids may find Reptarland a cool place, for example, but the parents will be chuckling at the obvious Disney references.

But where the film truly won me was with its sense of heart.  Little Chuckie is one of the most appealing characters I’ve seen in years…sweet and loving, he inspires the audience to care about his mother-seeking plight.  I wasn’t surprised at how much I laughed during the movie, but I was caught off guard when I found myself having to wipe at my eyes a little bit.

Rugrats in Paris is about as perfect a family film as you could ask for.  It’s good, heartwarming fun for audiences of all ages, and proves the rare kid’s cartoon that will please the parents as much as the children.

Video ***1/2

This is an outstanding anamorphic offering from Paramount, proving yet again that animation and DVD were meant for one another.  The color palate is wide and beautiful, with a rich full array of tones and textures that render perfectly, with no distortions or bleeding.  Save one or two darker scenes that suffer slightly from a bit of softness, the images are strong, sharp and crystal clear throughout, with solid lines and good detail, and no evidence of grain or compression.  Those who expect their animation to look great on disc won’t be disappointed.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 soundtrack is equally strong and enjoyable, with good dynamic range and frequent uses of discreet channel capability.  One or two action sequences, particularly the Godzilla-styled battle that levels a part of a city and the dream “Chuckie Chan” sequence make excellent use of front and back stages, with smooth crossovers and terrific clarity, with the .1 channel bringing in some extra depth to the louder moments.  The music sounds terrific, too, but this disc won’t give to the question “who let the dogs out”…sorry.

Features ***

The extras start with a charming making-of featurette, containing interviews with the cast and crew and some behind-the-scenes footage.  There are two alternate endings (in case you had wondered what became of Coco), a trailer, a sound effects showcase of the Chuckie Chan sequence (basically just with or without Foley effects), the music video for “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men, and 2 DVD ROM games.

Summary:

Rugrats in Paris is a thoroughly charming and winning family film that looks and sounds great on DVD.  Need I say more?  Pick this one up for your little ones…or, if you don’t have kids, just go ahead and grab it for yourself.  I won’t tell.