The Flashback Review of the day is about a beloved TV show from 90’s during a time when Nickelodeon was at its prime or as I call it, a golden age. Animated TV shows or Nicktoons were popular hits including “Ren & Stimpy,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “Doug,” & “Hey Arnold.” Besides Nicktoons, a few non-animated shows were also hits under the former programming block SNICK such as All That, Kenan & Kel, Clarissa Explains It All, and Are You Afraid Of The Dark. Nick Jr, another programming block for the pre-kindergarten demographic developed their first big hit Blue’s Clues. Before Spongebob Squarepants, one show became the marker for Nickelodeon, that show is Rugrats. In 1990, the series begins with a pilot episode called “Tommy And The Great White Thing.” A year later the officially aired the first season.
The series follows the adventures of the main protagonist Tommy Pickles, his friends including Chuckie, (not the killer doll) twins Phil & Lil, using their imagination to explore the concept of everyday life, changing their world into a fantasy while Tommy’s cousin Angelica. The main antagonist of the series with an addiction to cookies, who often causes conflict and sometimes mistreats the group by acting like a princess. The show went on to become a massive success spawning merchandise, action figures, t-shirts home video, and the show was awarded a star at The Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Steven Spielberg mentioned Rugrats as “The Peanuts” of our generation.
In 1998, (same year A Bug’s Life came out) Nickelodeon released a film based on the animated series called “The Rugrats Movie.” The film is about Tommy and his friends who get lost in woods and they must find a way to return home. The film introduces Tommy’s newborn brother Dil. This causes Tommy to become jealous of his younger brother getting more attention than him. Nickelodeon’s first ever animated movie earned mixed reviews from critics, families and movie goers alike. It also made enough revenue at the box office. A sequel known as “Rugrats In Paris” came out in 2000. A crossover with “The Wild Thornberrys” titled, “Rugrats Go Wild” was released in 2003.
When I first saw it as a kid, I enjoyed every minute of it, now that I’m older, I have mixed feelings about it. Keep in mind this article contains SPOILERS! If you grew up watching Rugrats as I did, go ahead and read it.
Positive & Doody Aspects
Positive: The cast from the show did a good job for their voiceover performances including Elizabeth “E.G.” Daily, Cheryl Chase, Katie Soucie and then newcomer to the series, Tara Strong.
Opening Scene is an homage to “Indiana Jones.” Especially the infamous boulder scene from “Raiders Of The Lost Ark.” Coincidentally, Steven Spielberg directed “Saving Private Ryan” which also came out the same year as The Rugrats Movie.
Animation is more polished and cleaner than the earlier seasons of the show. Allowing the animators more time to develop more attention to detail.
Character Development involving Tommy’s relationship with Dil while exploring the dangers of his friendship with Chuckie.
There is a sequence with the babies riding The Reptar Wagon resembling something off of a “Grand Theft Auto” (GTA for short) video game, plus Buster Rhymes raps in the background. They’re lucky they don’t have a five-star wanted level.
Satirized depiction of news reporters whose job is to tell nothing but lies. That’s fake news for ya. Rex Pester (yep that’s his last name) predates Harvey Levin & TMZ reporters. To put the icing on the cake, Tim Curry voices Rex. He later went on to voice Nigel Thornberry in “Rugrats Go Wild.”
The movie did a jab at “Bambi,” a beloved Disney classic with the gang nearly running over animals. This was before “Shrek” constantly mocked Disney movies.
David Spade & Whoopi Goldberg voice a pair of park rangers. It’s a shame that Chris Farley never got a chance to reunite with David before his untimely death. Can you imagine Chris voicing one of the Rugrats? I’d definitely pay my money.
The core themes are Brotherhood, Family, Jealously, Trust & Friendship. Each one is handled maturely.
One scene pays tribute to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Perhaps it was a tribute to its 30th anniversary back when The Rugrats Movie came out in 1998. Heck, even “Small Soldiers” used the instrumental theme from Mr. Kubrick’s film.
Angelica sings a parody version of Blondie’s song “One Way Or Another.”
It gets better during The Third Act when the plot thickens.
The Climax of the film becomes intense when the gang must overcome life threatening obstacles more dangerous than the show’s episodes.
I gotta love the part when Angelica said “NOT” before “Borat” said it. I would pay my money to hear her say Ali G’s catchphrase “Booyakasha.”
Doody: Opening Scene turns out it was the babies imagination. I call it The Bait & Switch tactic.
Poorly written dialogue like the babies speaking improper grammar. How are they speaking English properly?
I swear to God I’m not making this up, there’s a doctor named, Dr. Lipschitz. How did they manage to get away with the G rating?
One Musical Sequence involving a bunch of babies in a delivery room. It doesn’t connect to the plot. They all simultaneously pee on top of the ceiling and a rainbow literally appears inside a building!
A “we are done” cliche occurred when Tommy and his pals go their separate ways. I find this trope to be overused in nearly every buddy cop/rom-com film, because we know a pair are gonna say they are sorry, put aside their differences and finish what they started.
Tommy’s brother is named Dylan “Dil” Pickles, and I thought North West is an embarrassing name.
Slacker Grandpa Lou is responsible for the conflict involving the babies lost in the woods. In one scene, he mentioned his military experience in WWII, it turns out he was possibly napping on the job when Pearl Harbor happened. He stated, “I’ve sounded the alarm as soon as I could.” Way to go Grandpa for losing thousands of lives ya lazy douchebag!
There’s one Plot Hole involving The Reptar Wagon. The airplane crew opened the crate to see if the babies are okay. In real life, T.S.A. or anybody at the airport will need to check on items before going on board.
When Dil unstraps Tommy’s diaper, Lil gets all googly eyed on him. Did that just happen in a kids film? There are children watching! As Nostalgia Critic once said, “You know for kids!” Don’t tell me Paul Thomas Anderson did uncredited writing a parody of Mark Wahlberg’s offscreen “Johnson” from “Boogie Nights” with Lil amused at his “package.”
Angelica, the most popular character on the show, has the least amount of screen time. The first movie wasted a golden opportunity to expand her subplot interconnected to the group. Did the writers ignored Quentin Tarantino’s advice on making interesting storylines told in a non-linear narrative in films like “Reservoir Dogs” & “Pulp Fiction?!”
The Final Verdict: C, FOR CONFOUNDED!
Despite the flaws, I really enjoyed some of the parts including Tommy’s internal conflict with Dil, a bigger scope set in a forest & The Reptar Wagon. If you want to introduce your kids to Rugrats, go ahead and give it a shot. I’ve heard that Nickelodeon is planning on making a Roger Rabbit like film called, “Nicktoons.” Will have to see if it’s gonna get all the beloved characters from the 90s back.
3 thoughts on “Flashback Review: The Rugrats Movie”
The Rugrats Movie was actually the first animated film not produced by Disney to gross $100 million in the United States. It was the first movie I remember seeing in theaters (probably opening weekend in November 1998).
Interesting. I never knew that.
Rugrats was also the #1 film in its opening weekend with a gross of $27,321,470 from 2,782 theaters (an ultrawide release back then) for an average of $9,821 per theater.
The average adult movie ticket price back in 1998 was $4.69, compared to 2021’s average of $9.16. So adjusted for today’s ticket prices, the opening weekend would be $53,361,336 ($19,181 average per theater and at least 5.825 million tickets sold).
The $100,494,675 total gross adjusted would be $196,275,314 (at least 21.43 million tickets sold). And keep in mind, a lot of the tickets sold for Rugrats were lower-priced children’s tickets as well as matinee showing tickets. So in all likelihood, it probably sold even more tickets than that.
When my mom and I went to see it back in November 1998 (I was a couple weeks away from turning 6), we couldn’t get in the first time because that screening had sold out. We had to wait for the next screening, which we did get into, but even then the room was at least 90% full with well over 100 people I’d say.