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'Rugrats' movie berry good

Friday, June 13, 2003

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

The Rugrats live somewhere in suburbia. The Wild Thornberrys are usually off exploring some exotic locale.


RATING: PG for mild, crude humor.

VOICES: Bruce Willis, Tim Curry, Cheryl Chase.

DIRECTORS: Norton Virgien, John Eng.


How would the two ever meet?

Must be a case for Stu Pickles, sire to Tommy and mastermind of some of the Rugrats' great misadventures. His "bacation" plan, unbeknownst to the relatives, is to have the Pickles and Finsters of the famous Nickelodeon franchise forgo the luxury cruise ship and sail on what could barely pass for the Minnow.

During the thrilling shipwreck that ensues, bits and pieces of "Titanic," "Gilligan's Island," "Perfect Storm," "Jaws" and "The Poseidon Adventure," among others, all drift across the screen in various ways (Angelica sings "The Morning After").

They land on a Polynesian island deserted but for one family of brave documentarians: The Wild Thornberrys, led by, as 2-year-old Tommy knows from the TV, "that big-nosed nature guy Nigel Strawberry."

At that point, the comic possibilities are boundless, and the Klasky-Csupo production team goes at it with gusto to make the best "Rugrats" movie of the series.

They pair 4-year-old prima donna Angelica Pickles with teenage diva Debbie Thornberry, which has Debbie saying, "That girl's even bossier than me." Chuckie Finster is afraid of his own shadow and Donnie Thornberry could scare off a leopard. They will meet mano a mano in the jungle a la the Marx Brothers.

Meanwhile, gross-out cousins Phil and Lil have a virtual bug buffet at their fingertips but are trying to get off the insects. "If I'da known that was the last bug I'da ever eated I woulda eated it slower," Phil says.

The most hyped part of the movie is the meeting of Eliza, who can talk to the animals, with Spike, the newly loquacious Pickles dog. Spike sounds a lot like ... Bruce Willis on too much caffeine.

The challenge for the Pickles-Finster clan is to round up the scattered Rugrats and make it off the island. The challenge for the Thornberrys is to survive the Pickles-Finster clan.

The result is just as fast, funny and action-packed as you want it to be, with breaks for Angelica to sing, musical interludes using Aerosmith, Chrissie Hynde and the Clash, and no shortage of potty humor.

We expect nothing less from Nickelodeon.

Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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