There is no earthly reason — and there are very few unearthly ones — why any sane adult would go to see Rugrats Go Wild of their own volition, unless they confuse the movie with that juicy, late-night TV staple, “Girls Gone Wild.” It is by turns stupid, boring and painful, especially when it comes to the musical numbers. But children care not for these things, and, indeed, a crossover between Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats” and “Wild Thornberrys” is a dream come true for the under-10 set, not to mention the Paramount bottom line.
The wee main characters (for those of you who are not on speaking terms with 4-year-olds or lack cable television) are adventurous infant Tommy, sniffly fraidy-cat Chuckie and the hateful, self-centered Angelica. The babies and their parents embark on a trip on the high seas, only to be shipwrecked on a deserted island due to the haplessness of Stu Pickles, Tommy’s dad. Fortunately for the Pickles and their various relatives and in-laws, this island is being used by the Thornberrys, a clan of alternately holier-than-thou teens and completely committed explorers who are searching the speck of ocean-locked land for an elusive leopard. Soon, however, their object of pursuit becomes Tommy and his missing pals who have crawled off into the jungle in search of the elder Thornberry, a nature-TV star named Nigel who’s a hero to them all. The missing baby alarm is sounded by Tommy’s dog, Spike, who’s graced with the only celebrity voice in the movie, as Bruce Willis revisits the joy of the sound booth he first discovered in Look Who’s Talking.
Rugrats Go Wild has plenty of songs to keep the kids entertained when the plot drags (which is often), though for adults these are slow torture. It’s doubly disappointing to watch such a shoddy all-around effort in the wake of adult-appropriate fare such as Finding Nemo — which only serves to emphasize how intent Paramount is on making a movie on the cheap that’ll turn a profit thanks to a built-in audience of cable-suckled children and parents. Rugrats isn’t much more than a slightly extended episode of the TV show, and while that’s no surprise, it’s no excuse either.
Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].