- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

''Rugrats in Paris the Movie" maintains a very professional consistency with its successful prototype of two years ago, "The Rugrats Movie." The redundant subtitle is a bit of a puzzler, unless Nickelodeon plans to launch a supplementary TV series called "Rugrats in Paris." Because it amuses the animators to stomp Paris into ruins as a farewell jest, lingering residence in France seems unlikely. I guess we're confronting an inside joke whose humorous component is on the microscopic side.

Several other movies seem to have been on the minds of the "Rugrats" company while formulating this first sequel. The off-to-Paris plot is framed by marriage ceremonies. The first, linking the widowed Grandpa Pickles to a new spouse, Lulu (voice courtesy of Debbie Reynolds), permits troublemaking Angelica to do an impersonation of Don Corleone in the opening sequence of "The Godfather." The grown-ups have an explanation she managed to see a little of the movie on television but don't realize that she already has adapted the Don's style to enhance her own precocious despotism.

Family man and toy inventor Stu Pickles needs to repair a malfunctioning Reptar robot at an amusement park in Paris and turns the assignment into a family holiday as well.

Once the entourage descends on Paris, a Disney influence becomes conspicuous not only in the exaggerations of the park, a Japanese-owned enterprise called EuroReptarland, and its sticky auxiliary, Ooey Gooey World. The resident villainess, Coco La Bouche (smartly dubbed by Susan Sarandon), general manager of ERL, obviously is a chip off the Cruella DeVil block. A witty put-down is entrusted to one of the toddlers: "She's too pointy."

For mercenary reasons, Coco sets her pointy cap for Chucky Finster's widowed and supremely overmatched dad, Chas. The most urgent plot consideration is to expose Coco's already self-evident nastiness and reorient Chas toward her demure, lovable Japanese assistant, Kira, conveniently attached to a Rugrat of her own, Kimi.

So the lovelorn Finsters cash a double exotic jackpot. Presumably, Kira and Kimi will become fresh adornments to the TV series.

The Disney allusions begin to look a little insecure, as if the filmmakers needed to pinch themselves for reassurance that the Rugrats movie had indeed rivaled Disney in its own area of specialization by grossing more than $100 million. It did. It pretty much deserved to, too. Now snap out of it.

The original movie seemed stronger for a farcical plot that remained close to home, obliging the grown-ups to chase the toddlers after they became lost in the mail. Cruella, I mean Coco, requires a considerable reach into left field for a rollicking domestic crisis. Despite their admirable and ceaseless playfulness, the animators sag a bit while mooning along with Chucky or Chas and pretending Coco would get desperate enough to baby-sit.

The Coco-Kira rivalry also is bemusing on grounds of favoritism. Is it necessary to go to France to match up Chas Finster with a Japanese bride? Or to simulate a ranting French shrew in order to underline Asian delicacy? Because EuroReptarland is a copy of the Tokyo prototype, why not travel to the home park? "Rugrats in Paris" never seems as sincerely infatuated with the city as American movies made in the aftermath of World War II. Big deal. If you would prefer to go far east, go far east.

Everything considered, the "Rugrats" movie franchise remains lively and secure, but the Pickles family and friends might want to choose their next travel agent with more care.

Movies / Gary Arnold

Two and 1/2 out of four stars

TITLE: "Rugrats in Paris the Movie"

RATING: G (Occasional comic vulgarity)

CREDITS: Directed by Stig Bergqvist and Paul Demeyer. Written by J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jill Gorey, Barbara Herndon and Kate Boutilier.

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

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