It was perhaps inevitable that the characters from the popular Nickelodeon TV series "The Rugrats" and "The Wild Thornberrys" and their respective feature films would meet on the big screen. The result, "Rugrats Go Wild," is ideal for family audiences familiar with the combined characters that densely populate this adventure.
For the uninitiated, the Rugrats are the world's most precocious babies. They're actually perfectly normal kids; it's just that they speak and move and reason at a breathtakingly early age. The Thornberrys, Nigel (Tim Curry) and Marianne (Jodi Carlisle), are a modern-day Martin and Osa Johnson, intrepid and confident globe-trotting explorer-naturalists with a popular TV program. They travel everywhere with their two daughters, Debbie (Danielle Harris), an amusingly archetypal self-absorbed teenager, and Eliza (Lacey Chabert), a bespectacled 12-year-old who can talk with animals.
Writer Kate Boutilier makes tiny Rugrat Tommy Pickles (E.G. Daily) a big admirer of Sir Nigel, imagining himself in his backyard exploring jungles. As it happens Tommy's father, Stu (Jack Riley), arranges a cruise for the families of the Rugrats, but mishaps land the entire party on a seemingly deserted tropical island, where Tommy et al. have no lack of adventures.
"Rugrats Go Wild" has the distinctive look of Klasky Csupo animation, with the backgrounds a series of richly hued, elegantly stylized illustration, a good foil to the more simply drawn, affectionately caricatured people and animals. The film, like the TV series scored by Mark Mothersbaugh, has a clutch of witty songs, and "Rugrats Go Wild" is chock-full of references to other TV shows and movies
Some characters are more vivid than others. The imperious Charlotte Pickles (Tress MacNeille) is transformed by unexpected adventure, and bossy Rugrat Angelica (Cheryl Chase) discovers herself in the full-of-attitude Debbie. Eliza, the star of "The Wild Thornberrys Movie" is on the sidelines here, yet her mother, Marianne, once again gets a chance to demonstrate her endless resourcefulness in crisis. Curry's plummy accent underlines Sir Nigel's sweet obtuseness. On the anthropomorphic side are the alert and heroic dog Spike (Bruce Willis) and the leopard Siri (Chrissie Hynde).
Directors Norton Virgien's and John Eng's pacing is brisk, and voice director Charlie Adler elicits highly expressive performances, crucial in voicing animated characters, from his large cast. The number of characters makes "Rugrats Go Wild" somewhat bulkier than its less complicated predecessors, but fans are not likely to mind.
'Rugrats Go Wild'
MPAA rating: PG-13, for mild crude humor
Times guidelines: Suitable for all ages
E.G. Daily ... Voice of Tommy Pickles
Cheryl Chase ... Voice of Angelica Pickles
Tim Curry... Voice of Sir Nigel Thornberry
Danielle Harris...Voice of Debbie Thornberry
Jodie Carlisle...Voice of Marianne Thornberry
A Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies presentation of a Klasky Csupo production. Directors Norton Virgien and John Eng. Voice director Charlie Adler. Producers Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo. Executive producers Albie Hecht, Julia Pistor, Eryk Casemiro and Hal Waite. Screenplay by Kate Boutilier. Editors John Bryant, Kimberly Rettberg. Music Mark Mothersbaugh. Production designer Dima Malanitchev. Character designers Steve Fellner, Sharon Ross, Konstantin Valov. Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes.
In general release.