When Rugrats Go Wild begins it has a mean-spiritedness and perilousness about it that takes you off guard; you just don't expect the threat of drowning in a kids' movie let alone yelling and screaming parents. Of course if your high-seas vacation left you stranded on a desert island with six kids eight adults and a dog you'd probably get a little testy too. Seems Tommy's dad rents a pathetic excuse for a boat to charter the waters much to the dismay of the other adults. When it capsizes a la The Poseidon Adventure the crew survive and end up floating around in a rubber craft blaming each other for their bad luck. When they find said island the parents try to figure out what to do next while Tommy decides the only person who can help them is his hero Nigel Thornberry (whom he calls Nigel "Strawberry") the Discovery Channel-esque explorer Tommy watches religiously on TV. The brave kid is convinced Thornberry is nearby and drags his friends along to seek him out. Guess what? Nigel and his family including his daughter Eliza the whiz kid who can talk to animals are on the island looking for a rare and rather surly leopard who would like to make snacks out of all the babies. Tommy and his friends have to overcome more than a few treacherous obstacles to find the Thornberrys be rescued and make it safely back to their sandboxes.
Is it me or do those Rugrats' voices grate on you like fingernails on a chalkboard? Watching Rugrats Go Wild and hearing the characters speak is really almost unbearable at times especially having to listen to wimpy Chuckie's stuffed-up cadence as voiced by Nancy Cartwright who's so excellent as the voice of Bart from The Simpsons. Cheryl Chase's screeching as the spoiled Angelica and Elizabeth Daily's cracked-voice slobbering as the intrepid hero Tommy aren't much better. It makes your teeth hurt just thinking about it again as you reach for a bottle of Advil. The vocal cast of The Wild Thornberrys--including Lacey Chabert as the kind-hearted Eliza and Tim Curry as the veddy British Nigel--aren't nearly as irritating. Maybe it's because there are fewer of them and none of them wear diapers. Then there's Spike Tommy's ever-faithful dog. Nickelodeon's big marketing push for the film is the fact Spike finally gets to be heard--and is voiced by the one and only Bruce Willis no less. Honestly who cares? The anticipation isn't nearly as exciting as say hearing Kenny from South Park or Maggie from The Simpsons speak for the first time. Spike is a dog; dogs aren't supposed to talk.
Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys are certainly not a match made in heaven. No doubt the execs at Nickelodeon thought combining two of their more successful shows into one big animated feature film would double the kids' pleasures but these twain should never have met. The worst of it is Rugrats Go Wild concentrates on the wrong show Rugrats even though The Wild Thornberrys is the more intelligent series of the two teaching children about the environment and the thrill of discovery while aiming at the adults with some clever humor. Last year's The Wild Thornberrys Movie was a thoroughly entertaining film with its lead Eliza--a not-too-precocious not-too-perfect sort of goofy-looking preadolescent--at its center. She's a great role model for an older set of kids. Rugrats on the other hand is much better suited to the very young with its simple messages of hearth and home. The two previous Rugrats movies--The Rugrats Movie and Rugrats in Paris--did fairly well at the box office for those reasons but Rugrats Go Wild just muddles the originality of each show and spirals into a chaotic mess of screeching kids whining teenagers and bickering adults.