reviewed by Marci Miller
Combining two of Nickelodeon TV’s most popular cartoon ensembles — the Rugrats and the Thornberrys — is an idea that could have worked, bringing siblings of different ages into the theater to enjoy different elements of the same flick together. Alas, this good idea on paper fails miserably onscreen. In fact, Rugrats Go Wild! is so bad that it might land on my Ten Worst List for this year — quite a contrast from the totally terrific animated feature The Wild Thornberrys Movie, which last year made my Ten Best.
Who should stand up and take responsibility for this disorganized, lifeless dud? Kate Boutilier, who wrote the charming, thrilling, touching, meaningful script for Thornberrys also wrote Go Wild!. So which script was the fluke, the brilliant one or this mish-mash? Only Boutilier’s next script and the growing Nickelodeon-movie machine will give us a clue.
The biggest disappointment with Go Wild is that the vibrant, eccentric, full-blooded Thornberrys play only minor roles here. Eliza Thornberry (voiced by TV’s Lacy Chabert) — my vote for the best role model for little girls onscreen today (what a shame she’s just a cartoon!) — barely shows up here. The majority of the story is devoted to the Rugrat clan — that clique of malaprop-spouting infants, their older siblings and their half-witted parents. The lot of them end up shipwrecked on a desert island, with strains of the Gilligan’s Island theme song wafting over the waves. The Rugrat babies — a somewhat intelligent boodle despite never getting their diapers changed for the whole movie — toddle off into the jungle. Their babysitter is the dog Spike (voiced by Bruce Willis, Tears of the Sun), who is crudely obsessed with doggie-do and sniffing butts (all I wanted to say to spike was, “Muzzle it, buddy”). Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, famous TV wildlife hunters Sir Nigel Thornberry, his wife, daughters Debbie and Eliza, and their adopted wild boy are camped out while Sir Nigel tries to track down an elusive spotted leopard.
Sir Nigel (voiced by Tim Curry of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fame) gets a crack on the head and turns into a baby himself — something pretty disconcerting to the Rugrat kids and most unfunny to everyone in the audience. Later, Sir Nigel, slightly restored to adulthood, ends up with the kids on the bottom of the ocean, inside a submersible device with no power and rapidly depleting oxygen. It’s very not funny.
Being a cartoon, of course, everyone gets rescued — but by that time, all the kids in the audience are wishing they were back home while their parents feel so ripped off they’re ready to throw popcorn at the screen. My advice? Don’t spend any money on Go Wild!. Wait till the library gets a copy of it on video and then rent it for nothing (kids movies are free at Buncombe County branches). In the meantime, go see Finding Nemo as many times as you can.