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IN SHORT: Delightful. Really. [Rated G. 90 minutes]
Knowing that most kidlet flicks eventually, if not initially, get grabbed as video rentals, we stopped putting ratings on them long time ago unless they could be viewed as adult movies all by their lonesomes.
We have found that, in general, there are three kinds of children's movies. The first are those that appeal to kidlets for reasons far beyond the understanding of the bored-out-of-their-minds adults in the next seat. Second, usually big budget animated flicks, are those that have a lot of visual activity to fix the kids attentions while they try to enthrall the adults in the audience. Then there are the proud and few movies that have jokes for kids, and other gags that will sail over those tiny li'l heads squarely targeting the area between the eyeballs of all the adults in the audience.
Such a flick is Rugrats in Paris, the second movie based upon the Nickelodeon television series. The first flick is best remembered by this site as 85 minutes of pain minus about five minutes of updated classic rock tunes orchestrated by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh. You can read that review here. Again with no kidlets in tow for number two - which is as good a place as any to point out that most of the kidlet jokes in Rugrats almost always manage to involve some bodily function; mispronunciation of words is a distant second - we settled in our seats, determined to watch all the other kidlets in the audience. We figured on another tepid ninety minutes in the dark.
We were wrong. Metaphorically, if Rugrats was Hell, Rugrats in Paris is pretty close to Heaven. Not heavenly enough that those in or beyond teenhood will buy tickets without a kidlet in tow but good enough that they'll be renting when they do have one. We meant it. It always comes back to rental.
From the adult
POV, Rugrats in Paris is delightful from the word go, the reason being
that those of us who have left puberty behind get our own parody story to follow
along. As the movie begins, buried in the dialog of the adult 'toons is the mention
that the night before RIP begins (and isn't that an unfortunate acronym
Kids will never get the joke. Parents in the audience that I sat with were hysterical. It gets better from there because while there five more diaper jockeys and a dog named Spike bopping around the screen, none of 'em are important enough that you'll wonder what their names are. Kidlets have the facts down pat so bother them for those details. Let's move on.
The story continues as a late-night call from an amusement park near Paris summons the Pickles clan, and their friends the Finsters, to the City of Lights. While Mr. Pickles fixes a Godzilla clone called Reptar, the babies romp through this EuroDisney clone, having the time of their lives. This affords the filmmakers an opportunity to riff on Disney, which they do again and again. It isn't cruel and it isn't incessant; it helps if you sailed through It's a Small World -- here it's "Ooey Gooey World" -- at ages six and then again perhaps at 30, or if you've ever rolled your eyes at an endless number of bad songs. Which include those in RIP, none as clever as the last batch.
The woman in charge of the park, Coco La Buche (Susan Sarandon) is a single, diaper hating witch who sees her trip up the corporate ladder stymied by the fact that she doesn't have a husband and kids. So she set out to find one, aided by her assistant Jean-Claude (John Lithgow), a ne-er do well who dumps most of his work on the back of his own assistant, single mother Kira Watanabe (Julia Kato).
That target, of course, would be Chuckie's dad, Chas (Michael Bell), a toon-guy who, honestly, makes us insipid wimps of the world look good. The big boys and girls out there will have fun finding out where the story goes from there. The parental units should have figured it out by now. While the Godfather bits run out of steam about the time the songs get really annoying - it sets up a great gag which we won't spill - there's enough extra stuff to keep it all fairly pleasant.
Yes, most grownups will want to rent and yes, every kidlet who stares at Rugrats on Nickelodeon without blinking will want to be at the first show. If you've got a family full of pre-teens, make it a big night out. Either adult will be able to slip out for a couple of minutes without missing much, if the kidlets need popcorn refills.
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