Rugrats Go Wild (2003)

glgowld2The Nickelodeon films of late from “The Rugrats Movie” right down to “Hey Arnold! The Movie” have been awful movies without a soul or remotely memorable moments worth mentioning. So my natural hesitation towards “Rugrats Gone Wild” was basically understandable. Surprisingly I was wrong, perhaps it was because of the presence of the “Wild Thornberry’s” characters from their series that helped keep the taint from the “Rugrats” mood at bay, but this turned out to be a pretty good movie in the end. I was never really much of a big fan of “The Rugrats”, but I have always loved “The Wild Thornberry’s” being an animal lover and wildlife activist, so I was somewhat optimistic as to what may occur and this ended up being a simple fun little family film.

And while essentially I was worried about the basically pointless crossing of two franchises I like the hybrid of animation since “Thornerry’s” and “Rugrats” essentially have very different styles of animation and they do manage to converge very well and almost seamlessly with styles, not to mention the writers find a really interesting way to cross both cartoons. On the way to a fabulous vacation the entire gang from the “Rugrats” gets stuck on a dinky boat courtesy of Stu Pickles, but when a storm hits, the boat sinks and they all get stranded on a deserted island without food or water. Little do they know on the other side of the island, the Thornberry’s are on an expedition assignment for their documentary looking for the elusive Siri Leopard.

What a Leopard is doing on a deserted island and how it managed to survive mysteriously without any other leopards seemingly present on the island with it, is never explained, but regardless, when the adults start looking around the kids get lost again and Spike is on the hunt for them, but when he meets Eliza Thornberry, he’ll finally be able to voice his worry for his “babies”. For a person who really doesn’t care for animation or both of these shows, there’s not much of a significance for the plot here, but for people who watch or have watched both show prominently, this film presents a truly pivotal moment in the animated history of the rugrats: we finally get to hear Spike talk, and shockingly he sounds a lot like Bruce Willis. Yes, Bruce Willis plays Spike, an odd choice, but still a lot of fun, and Willis also sounds like he’s having a lot of fun playing one of the best characters on Rugrats with his over the top gruff voice and wacky screaming when Eliza first begins talking with him.

Willis gives an unexpected charming turn here and manages to make a truly important event for children even better giving a really appropriate voice for a pretty good supporting character for the Rugrats series. The legendary, and did I mention bad-ass (?) Chrissie Hynde from one of the greatest bands ever is great as the menacing Siri the leopard, and she even has a great musical number with Willis. Essentially, the writers also manage to mix the characters up very well as Chucky finds himself paired with the opposite Donny, Tommy is searching for Nigel, and Angelica meets up with the equally high maintenance prima Donna Debbie. All around the characters have good chemistry and some dysfunction around one another but I pretty much liked the Thornberry characters a lot more before they tend to come off more human and present a lot more depth as they did in their series, and it’s a good balance within the films haywire activity.

My main question about this movie was essentially the question of redundancy. Did these two franchises, both very different in tone and story, really need to be crossed? Or was Nickelodeon figuring they’d cash in on two franchises? I mean, I love “The Wild Thornberry’s” but what was the real point of this movie? Because no matter how much this pretends to be a mixture of both franchises, it’s inevitably just another vehicle for the “Rugrats” franchise with the “Thornberry’s” taking a back seat and unfortunately becoming a sub-plot. When you get down to it, despite the sharing of the title, it’s clear this is just another “Rugrats” movie in the end. There’s hardly ever any real focus on the Thornberry’s in reality, nor do they ever really get a really good linear plot as the “Rugrats” characters do. They get a shipwreck, survival, animal adventure, and the Thornberry’s are tracking a leopard. That’s it. And the plot in general is just so outlandish. I know it’s intended for light comedy, but I’ve always had a gripe about the sheer irresponsibility of these self-involved parent characters.

These kids get in to all sorts of very dangerous traumatic situations and none of the parents are investigated or show zero signs of guilt or remorse for failing to show any sort of responsibility. Not to mention the “Rugrats” movie ended up being a very grim and violent movie with a lot of inappropriate themes and suggested violence that I just didn’t like and felt annoyed at for it’s grim mood, and like all the Nickelodeon cartoon movies to keep coming, this again comes off as unusually gloomy with plots that often border on heart-wrenching and a little too suggestive for kids to pick up on. What was the deal with being stuck in that pod below water? The Thornberry characters get the worst treatment here with their basic character sketches being reduced to minor sub-plots without any real reason to be in the movie.

Eliza isn’t shown as much as she should be and is only cut down to a sub-plot involving her communication with Spike, Donny is reduced to acting off Chucky, Debbie is only shown when she’s alongside Angelica without anything to really do here, and the plot with Nigel becoming a figurative kid by being bonked on the head is so rehashed from a past plot in which Tommy’s father became one after falling off the roof of his house, it’s not even funny. It’s sad these great characters only became subjected to supporting characters for the “Rugrats” characters. If you dismiss the flaws and pretty unimaginative plot line, you’ll really have some fun with the film, I basically enjoyed the Thornberry characters more, but regardless, this is basically a fun movie for kids without any influences you might become worried about. It’s bland, but then it’s not meant for adults.