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Rugrats Go Wild

If you don't have kids, you've probably never willingly watched an episode of Rugrats. (Even if you do have kids, it might still not have been willingly.) But the good folk at Klasky-Csupo Productions have always made sure that the show has something to entertain the adults, usually in the form of pop culture references that there's no way the kids are going to understand. But here's something the fanboys can understand: the crossover.

Little Tommy Pickles, the likeliest hero of Rugrats, idolizes nature show host Nigel Thornberry, himself a secondary character in the Klasky-Csupo show The Wild Thornberrys.. As both shows have taken their shots at big screen stardom, it's only natural for them to meet in Rugrats Go Wild.

So here's the newsflash: it's not bad.

You might be suppressing your gag reflex right now, thinking back to such halcyon movies as The Care Bears Movie or He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword, "films" which were really just long TV episodes. Klasky-Csupo has more respect for its audience than that.

They've consistently used the extra budget to actually make their animation better. And they also pay a writer to create something reasonably intelligent and occasionally clever, with references to The Poseidon Adventure and the good Planet of the Apes.

Unfortunately, they didn't splurge on someone to write particularly memorable songs, though they somehow felt duty-bound to make this a musical. After Disney's last two non-musical animation disasters, perhaps Nickelodeon felt a little nervous. At worst, the songs are a minor distraction. Unless you believe that Bruce Willis, voicing Spike the Dog, cannot sing, and that Chrissie Hynde as a leopard must be rather embarrassed to have a duet with him.

Because their main audience is still the under 7 set, yes, the movie tends to be a little heavy on the moral lesson side, and it's the same lesson The Thornberrys were supposed to have learned at the end of their solo film.

But Rugrats Go Wild has two things worth mentioning, and then I'm going to stop trying to convince you of its merit.

First, there's that respect for the audience's intelligence. Late in the film, there's a scene where Nigel Thornberry really, truly believes that he's going to die, and it's beautifully underplayed. Hence, it's an incredibly believable and moving moment as he shows courage, unwilling to panic the babies he has found himself stuck with. In fact, it's one of the most affecting moments in a film I've seen all year.

Second, Rugrats Go Wild is filmed in Odorama. At various times throughout the film, the audience gets a cue to scratch and sniff a card, that they might smell what the movie characters smell. At first, the strawberry cupcake seems refreshing and pleasant, if faint in real bouquet. However, the stinky feet scent is a triumph of olfactory engineering.

I was more grateful that on my card, at least, the fish smelled like thin cardboard.

Kids might drag you to this movie. Don't worry; you might actually have a good time. For the love of heaven, though, don't smell the feet.

What's it worth? $6

Derek McCaw

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