The Rugrats Movie, the 1998 big-screen adaptation of the hit Nickelodeon cartoon, distinguished itself by not being as insulting, mercenary, and creepy as most contemporary children's entertainment. But the tykes' maiden foray into film blunted the series' gentle satire by focusing almost entirely on the show's youngest characters, a move that helped make the film a blockbuster, but also made it something of a chore for adults. Thankfully, Rugrats In Paris restores much of the show's understated appeal, sending its cast of precocious toddlers and babies (along with their parents) to Paris, where electronics whiz Stu Pickles is sent to help fix a robot gone awry at EuroReptarland, an amusingly surreal Parisian theme park. EuroReptarland is run by a child-hating careerist voiced by Susan Sarandon, who schemes to marry the hapless widower father of Rugrat Chuckie in order to win a big promotion, a deal facilitated by Chuckie's coldhearted peer Angelica. The coldhearted businesswoman all too willing to sacrifice domesticity for the sake of her career may be a loathsome reactionary stereotype, but Sarandon tears into the role with glee, and her free-flowing meanness provides a bracing antidote to the film's inevitable pro-believing-in-oneself message. Theme parks have long been a source of satirical fodder for The Simpsons, and while RIP never approaches that show's sharp wit, the filmmakers fully mine EuroReptarland's comic possibilities, particularly during a scene in which Sarandon and her intended suitor endure a noxious boat ride. A clever script, a surprisingly resonant subplot involving Chuckie's wish for a new mother, and a brisk 80-minute running time combine to make RIP a significant improvement over its predecessor. And, if nothing else, the film affords audiences a rare opportunity to hear The Baha Men's obscure single "Who Let The Dogs Out?"
More from The A.V. Club