Tommy Pickles ….. E.G. Daily
Chuckie Finster ….. Christine Cavanaugh
Phil and Lil DeVille ….. Kath Soucie
Angelica Pickles ….. Cheryl Case
Dil Pickles ….. Tara Charendoff
Didi Pickles ….. Melanie Chartoff
Stu Pickles ….. Jack Riley
Grandpa Pickles ….. Joe Alaskey
Howard DeVille ….. Phil Proctor
Susie Carmichael ….. Cree Summer
Charlotte Pickles ….. Tress MacNeille
Drew Pickles ….. Michael Bell
Reptar Wagon ….. Busta Rhymes
Ranger Margaret ….. Whoopi Goldberg
Ranger Frank ….. David Spade
Aimed squarely at moppets with minuscule attention spans, “The Rugrats Movie” is a fast and frenetic animated feature that should delight young aficionados of the long-running Nickelodeon TV series. Trouble is, pic lacks the cross-generational appeal of recent Disney-produced B.O. blockbusters (not to mention DreamWorks’ “Antz”) and may be ill-equipped to compete for long against other family-oriented holiday releases. However, after a respectable but likely unspectacular theatrical run, “Rugrats” will rake in the jack as a priced-for-purchase video release.
Like the TV series, “The Rugrats Movie” focuses on the misadventures of precocious toddlers, ranging in age from 1 to 3, in a suburban neighborhood. Tommy (voiced by E.G. Daily), theunofficial leader of the group, is a plucky little fellow who appears perfectly cast in the opening fantasy sequence as “Okie-Dokie Jones,” the whip-cracking raider of a lost ark. When playtime is over, however, Tommy must face the real-life challenge of coping with a new baby brother, Dil (Tara Charendoff).
As he finds himself vying with the ever-wailing Dil for his patents’ attention, Tommy is consoled by the timorous Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh), his best friend, and twins Phil and Lil (both voiced by Kath Soucie). Angelica (Cheryl Chase), Tommy’s bratty cousin, offers, as usual, no help whatsoever.
Complications ensue when Tommy, his friends and his baby brother take a spin in his inventor father’s latest contraption, the Reptar Wagon, “the ultimate in toddler transportation.” (Rap star Busta Rhymes provides the foreboding bellow of the Reptar.)
Unfortunately, the wagon transports the toddlers all the way to a forest far from the neighborhood. Angelica sets out in hot pursuit — not to offer aid, of course, but to retrieve a beloved doll that was taken along for the ride.
Whenever it looks like things might slow down as the Rugrats make their way through the woods, a new source of excitement — a near-disaster at a waterfall , an encounter with escaped circus monkeys, a menacing appearance by hungry wolf — is introduced.
The monkeys figure into the pic’s most amusing musical sequence, set to a new version of the novelty song “Witch Doctor” by Devo. Lisa Loeb, Iggy Pop and Elvis Costello are among the other notables who also make contributions to the soundtrack.
Through the use of high-tech trickery and multiple animation effects, many scenes have the same gracefully fluid look of a Steadicam tracking shot in a live-action production. The movement greatly enhances the action scenes, but seems self-conscious — and too dizzying — during quieter scenes in Tommy’s household. Regardless, directors Norton Virgien and Igor Kovalyov, working from a script by David Weiss and J. David Stem, keep the pace brisk and the action abundant.
For the grown-ups, there is a broadly comical satire of TV news coverage, some sitcom-style family squabbling, and a few clever references to “The Fugitive,” “2001” and other pix.
For the most part, however, “The Rugrats Movie” makes little effort to reach beyond its target audience. Young fans of the TV series will doubtless enjoy the novelty of seeing familiar characters in a bigscreen spin-off. Parents who view the show with their kids may be amused. (Some, however, will strongly disapprove of the sight gags that involve urinating youngsters.) Other adults aren’t likely to show up.