Rugrats in Paris: The Movie opens with two title-cards, one that bills the actual title of the movie and a follow-up one that reads “Rugrats II” in the same stylized text as The Godfather Part II. It even has the accompanying music! The titular group of Tommy (voiced by E. G. Daily), Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh), Phil and Lil (Kath Soucie), Dil (Tara Charendoff), and Angelica (Cheryl Chase) are at a wedding where Angelica, who recently saw “one or two scenes from the movie,” according to her mother, is serving as the “Bobfather,” granting wishes for the babies. At one point, Phil and Lil ask why they found the broken head of a wooden horse in their crib. “That’s what you get for wiping you boogers on Cynthia,” Angelica scoffs, referring to her doll.
These bits play well for the adult crowd, or those like me, an adult who once watched Rugrats in Paris in theaters and on VHS as a child. The “Bobfather” bit bookends the film, and there’s even dialog-driven references to A Few Good Men to compliment visual callbacks to King Kong, Godzilla, and Lady and the Tramp. These moments are largely silly and superfluous, but so is the film itself. Unlike the first Rugrats movie, which was fun albeit rife with dark undertones, Rugrats in Paris goes bigger with the setting but remains curiously light on effective jokes.
At the wedding reception for Tommy’s grandpa, Chuckie is upset because he’s the only child at the entire party without a mom with whom to dance. Chuckie’s mom passed away, leaving him and his father, Chas (Michael Bell), lonely. Chuckie uses his “Bobfather” wish for a new mother, and it just so happens to coincide with his father’s determination to remarry. He uses the internet to find someone, and is shocked to discover that an otherwise suitable match isn’t allowed in the state of Kentucky.
That evening, Tommy’s father, Stu (Jack Riley), gets a phone-call from Paris. A robotic Reptar is malfunctioning at EuroReptarland and he needs to be on the next flight to repair it. As a result, the kids and their families take a surprise sabbatical to Paris, where they meet Coco LaBouche (Susan Sarandon), the menacing park executive who is trying to find a suitable beau herself. She plans to con the well-meaning yet naïve Chas into marrying her, which would in turn make her Chuckie’s stepmom.
The plot is mostly an excuse for the rugrats to get in all sorts of trouble in the city of love. Coco’s do-boy (John Lithgow) is tasked with watching the kids, but predictably he doesn’t, and it results in the babies exploring an ooze-filled ride, interacting with singing sumo wrestlers, and eventually Godzilla-ing France in Stu’s giant Reptar creation en route the cathedral where Chas is marrying Coco.
I give the Rugrats movies credit in this regard: they served as preludes to the upcoming season by introducing new characters that would stick around for the remainder of the show. The first film featured the birth of Tommy’s brother, Dil. This one introduces us to Kira (Julia Kato), a lovely theme-park employee, and her infant daughter Kimi (Dionne Quan), who would become part of the Rugrats clan. The third film featured the Rugrats meeting the Wild Thornberries clan, but we’ll get to that soon enough.
I felt the same way about Rugrats in Paris as I did when I saw the film as a child. I wasn’t a fan of transplanting the entire group to Paris. Something about the locale doesn’t fit the characters, and their interactions with the wonders of the region feel limited (mostly, it’s the theme-park attractions themselves). Furthermore, Coco is a repugnant villain, built from the ground-up on predictable evil woman clichés and actions so brazenly contemptible that it’s almost as if the adults assumed the obliviousness of the babies. There are musical numbers, but they’re even more sparse and disappointingly simpler than those in The Rugrats Movie.
You do have to give the film credit for its send-up of The Godfather. Considering the far-reaching and ostensibly never-ending barrage of parodies there are of the classic, staple American film trilogy, this one in particular ranks high for its simultaneous humor and innocence.
NOTE: As of this writing, Rugrats in Paris: The Movie is streaming for free on Pluto TV and on Paramount+ with a subscription.
Voiced by: E. G. Daily, Christine Cavanaugh, Kath Soucie, Cheryl Chase, Tara Charendoff, Susan Sarandon, John Lithgow, Jack Riley, Melanie Chartoff, Joe Alaskey, Tress MacNeille, Michael Bell, Julia Kato, and Dionne Quan. Directed by: Paul Demeyer and Stig Bergqvist.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!