The Rugrats Movie, as the title says, is the first of three movies based on the Klasky-Csupo-produced Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats. Released to theaters on November 20, 1998, it was the third theatrical film released by Nickelodeon Movies and also their first animated one. It was also a huge Western Animation milestone, becoming the first non-Disney animated feature to gross $100 million in the United States, despite earning mixed reviews from critics.
Released between the show's fifth and sixth seasons, the plot concerns the Rugrats having to deal with an unhappy amount of changes that have come as a result of the birth of Tommy's new baby brother, Dil (who for some reason can't talk like the rest of them). Tommy feels he's being neglected by his parents in favor of Dil, and the other babies do not like Dil at all. Things get worse when the babies get stranded in the forest with Stu's new toy, the Reptar Wagon, and a bunch of monkeys who have escaped from a traveling circus. Will the babies learn to cope with Dil and make it back home?
This film contains examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: When Rex Pester lists the babies that have gone missing, he gets all their names wrong.
- Adult Fear:
Lt. Klavin: Mrs. Pickles, does your son have any enemies?
- Your children (including a newborn) are lost in a forest, where they're in danger of the elements, rogue circus animals, and each other.
- And the ones older than the newborn are all under age four. Heck, three out of five of the remaining children are under two.
- Also this dialogue when police woman Lt. Klavin is asking Didi important questions about her missing kids.
Lt. Klavin: Uh-huh. Any underworld or mob connections?
Didi: He is a baby!
- Adults Are Useless: Averted for a change. 'Cause this time around, the situation is actually very serious.
- Agony of the Feet: Angelica hurts her foot after kicking the Reptar Wagon out the door and she hops up and down for a few seconds before hearing her show come back on.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese dub has the surprisingly melancholy "Winter's Review" by SHAZNA as its theme song.
- Award-Bait Song:
- "Take Me There" by Mya feat. Blackstreet, Mase, & Blinky Blink.
- The above-mentioned "Winter's Review" counts as well.
- Incidentally, David Bowie was asked by the producers to provide a song for the movie. The result was "Safe", which has the qualities of this trope. However, the song ultimately went unused.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Tommy gives Dil a "The Reason You Suck" Speech after he's had enough of Dil's behavior, and nearly lets him get taken by the monkeys.
- Big Bad: Scar Snout the wolf provides the biggest and darkest threat the babies have ever face in the entire series.
- Big Brother Instinct: The movie focuses on Tommy developing this for Dil. He does his best to take care of his baby brother, even when Dil becomes bratty.
- Big Damn Heroes:
- Spike, just as the wolf is ready to pounce.
- Chuckie, Phil and Lil have one, using the Reptar Wagon to rescue Tommy and Dil from the monkeys.
- Big Damn Movie: The show never had the babies going on this kind of adventure. Most of the adventures within the show were purely in the imagination of the babies, or were adventures through relatively mundane environments that would seem fascinating and new to a young child. The movie, on the other hand, has them literally lost in the wilderness.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Angelica Pickles, although downplayed from the show—she's not afraid of looking obnoxious by singing about how awful babies are in front of the adults, at any rate.
- The Body Parts That Must Not Be Named: When the adults are discussing the unborn Dil's sex, Charlotte says, "Born under Venus, look for a..." but is cut off.
- Book-Ends: The prologue and the epilogue feature an "Okeydokey Jones" game of pretend, though in the latter Dil makes an appearance, since Dil of course wasn't born until after the prologue. Incidentally, having Dil around is what allows their mission to succeed this time, unlike the prologue where the babies failed.
- Bowdlerise: In the French dub, Didis mention of Pearl Harbor is replaced with a rock concert, but this may be a case of a cultural translation as not too many Francs are familiar with the event as much as Americans are.
- The Cameo: Voice cameo. Margaret Cho voices Lt Klavin, who asks Didi if Tommy has "any underworld or mob connections".
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The Reptar wagon, and Stu's Dactar glider.
- The Circus Monkeys.
- The pocket watch that Stu gives Tommy to show him the responsibility his son now has as a big brother. Tommy's "sponsitility" watch becomes very vital to the plot.
- The babies end up in a mattress truck that Stu unknowingly causes to crash into the forest. While the babies are of course unharmed, the aftermath of the mattress truck accident is the first scene of investigation for the Parents.
- Dil's pacifier falls out of the Reptar Wagon on to the road. Later when Spike is towing Angelica across the road, Spike finds the pacifier on the ground and stops. But Angelica keeps going, and Spike is tugged along on his leash as he and Angelica fall into a ditch in the woods. Later, when the police and the adults are investigating the mattress truck accident, Lt. Klavin finds Dil's pacifier and shows it to Stu and Didi, who gasp in shock.
- The goat that Grandpa Boris gives to Didi.
- The Chew Toy: Rex Pester. Being an arrogant, nosy jerk reporter in a kids' cartoon movie, it is kind of expected.
Rex: And I never won an Emmy!
- First, Stu accidentally slams into his helicopter while riding Dectar, ripping out the throttle and sending him crashing into the forest.
Rex: No! Not my toupeé! No!
- He later reappears with an arm in a sling, pushing away another reporter already on the scene. He is promptly attacked by the monkeys who steal his toupee, with Betty cheering them on.
Betty: (laughs) Go get him, you little simians!
Charlotte: Hey, Rex! Time for your closeup!
Chaz: [in mock sympathy] Oh dear, too bad.
- For the babies, Angelica is the one who goes through the worst. She gets dragged around the woods by Spike (and the monkeys at one point), she almost gets killed by the wolf twice, she goes through the most Clothing Damage, and she flies into the air and gets dangled over a bridge by her detective outfit.
- Clothing Damage: Each of the Rugrats especially Angelica's outfits get damaged while in the woods during the climax, Stu's also gets damaged when he crashes through the shed on his Dactar plane. Even Cynthia is looking pretty ragged by the end.
- Cousin Oliver: Dil. After all, this is his debut.
- Cry Cute: Even Angelica breaks down in tears over Spike's Disney Death.
- Darker and Edgier: All the great memories we had of Rugrats are on display here; life-threatening situations, murderous animals, psychological tension tearing the group apart, the works.
- David vs. Goliath: Spike takes on a wolf much larger than him to protect the babies. Like the Trope Namer, David defeats Goliath.
- Death Glare: Tommy has a few of these when he loses it and blows up at Dil. It's one of the things that causes Dil to change.
- Description Cut: Didi explains that Stu and Drew are brothers and they get along wonderfully. Cut to them fighting.
- Determinator: Pretty much all the main cast. The babies searching for "the Lizard" to get home, Angelica searching for Cynthia, and the adults searching for the kids.
- Disney Death:
- Spike who saves the babies from the huge vicious wolf, ending with both of them falling off the bridge and over a waterfall. Fortunately, Spike manages to survive by landing at the bottom of the bridge.
- Also, for a brief second Phil, as Lil thinks a tree fell on him, but he really accidentally left his shoes behind as he ran for cover.
- Disney Villain Death: Scar Snout the wolf, who's pulled off the bridge by Spike into the river.
- Drives Like Crazy: The babies when driving the Reptar wagon through the streets and later through the forest. Having no knowledge of driving, this was inevitable.
- Dropped Glasses: At one point the monkeys steal Chuckie's glasses. A bit later Chuckie complains that the situation couldn't get any worse only to step on his glasses cracking the lenses. For the rest of the movie he has a hard time seeing due to the broken glasses having a kaleidoscope effect.
- Eureka Moment: When Chaz & Howard notice baby footprints and wheel tracks in the woods, the adults realize the kids are in the woods, on the Reptar Wagon. When Drew angrily calls Stu out on this, it gives Stu the idea to find the kids on his Dactar Glider.Stu: They must be in my Reptar Wagon!
Drew: "It's the perfect children's toy!" You and your stupid inventions!
Stu: My stupid inventions... That's IT!
- Everybody Cries: The babies cry, including Angelica, when Spike falls off the bridge while protecting them against the wolf.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Until Tommy opens Dil's banana baby food and turns it into a subversion. Then un-subverted once the Circus owners find them and they give Rex his comeuppance.
- Fake-Out Opening: The Rugrats in a "Okeydokey Jones" fantasy sequence.
- The monkeys that take over their owners' circus train and end up crashing it into the forest.
- The wolf that Spike pulls Angelica away from in the beginning returns to menace the kids later. The wolf itself is subtly foreshadowed by the remarks about Little Red Riding Hood by the babies when they first get lost.
- If you listen closely, when Angelica tells Spike to quiet down with the barking, you can hear "One Way or Another" playing on the TV. Angelica ends up singing her own version later during the storm.
- The argument between Stu and Drew when we first see them sets up the relationship that, at first, Tommy will have with Dil because of how the brothers (both Stu and Drew and Tommy and Dil) don't connect.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- The song sung by the babies in the maternity ward is chock full of dick jokes — including one baby staring down his diaper and singing "so THAT'S what that thing looks like!" — as well as one baby commenting that her cord's been cut, which causes a male one to look in his diaper and exclaim "Consider yourself lucky!".
- When the mothers are discussing how Dr. Lipschitz has predicted that Dil will be a girl, Charlotte starts to say "Born under Venus, look for a—" before her phone cuts her off.
- Dr. Lipschitz, who is revealed in one episode to be a borderline quack, has a name that sounds like "lip shits".
- When Angelica asks Drew "How come you told mommy that Aunt Didi got saddled with a loser?" Young audiences probably won't get what "saddled with" means until they've reached adolescence. Stu is, understandably, insulted, while Angelica can be justified, since she really has no idea what she's saying.
- When Tommy's "diapie" falls down while speaking to the other babies at one point, Lil is visibly enjoying the view more than the boys.
- Not to mention the rap song that plays while the babies "drive" around very clearly says "So fast the wind will blow-dry your asshole!". Wow.
- Gross-Out Show:
- Dil pees on the other Rugrats as they attempt to change his diaper at one point.
- Or the "fountain" during the musical number. Rainbow at the end aside...
- Hartman Hips: Miriam Pickles.
- Hate Sink: Rex Pester, the obnoxious news reporter who gets Drew to fight Stu and tells Didi that she might never see her children again. He's also not all that subtle about the fact that he doesn't really care about the lost babies he's pretending to be all heartbroken about and is exploiting the situation just to boost his own career.
- Heel Realization:
- When Tommy is about to pour Dil's banana baby food on him and let the monkeys take him away (then eat him), Dil realizes that he's been a real brat and hugs his brother to apologize. Dil spends the rest of the movie being nice to Tommy and helping the rest of the babies escape the monkeys.
- In the same scene, Tommy also gets this when he sees how terrified Dil is.
- Chuckie himself gets one when he realizes that he left abandoned his best friend to die in the woods. He gets Phil and Lil to go back to help because somebody has to and there's nobody else who can.
- Heroic Dog: As (ironically) the wolf realized, Spike is more than ready to go Papa Wolf to protect the children.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Spike. Or at least it seems this way at first.
- Heroic BSoD: Lil has one after she thinks Phil was crushed by a tree.
- High-Pressure Emotion: Drew Pickles' head boils red after finding out Stu lost Angelica. One guess as to what Drew attempts to do afterwards.
- Hypocritical Humor:
Ranger Frank: You see Margaret, out here in the country, you have to be just a little tougher. (sees the Reptar Wagon floating in the river from his telescope) AAAH! THE DRAGON! I JUST SAW IT! I SAW IT!
- Twice, Ranger Frank gives Ranger Margaret some helpful advice, before promptly acting like the opposite of the advice he just told her.
Ranger Margaret: Where? Where? (looks through the telescope, but the wagon is nowhere to be seen) Here? Where?
Ranger Frank: I know you rookies can get excited and lose your heads, but veterans like me know the key is to remain calm and cool and collected.
- Later when the adults arrive at the ranger station and discuss the situation,
(the adults enter; panicking; Frank falls from his chair)
Didi: Please! Our kids are lost in the storm! You've got to help us!
Ranger Frank : There's dragons out there! I'm a park ranger! Not a knight at a round table! GO FIND SOMEONE WITH A LANCE!
Ranger Margaret: Never mind him. Come with me!
(Margaret leaves with the adults, leaving Frank whimpering and sobbing hysterically)
- It's All About Me: Dil has this attitude until Tommy blows up at him and is about to let the monkeys take him away. At that moment, Dil suffers a Heel Realization.
- Infant Sibling Jealousy: Early in the film, Tommy doesn't get along with his newborn brother, Dil at first. Tommy hates how much noise Dil makes and feels his parents are neglecting him to focus on his brother. He and his friends trying to send Dil back to the hospital is how they end up lost in a forest. By the end of the film, Tommy realizes how much he loves Dil, and his Big Brother Instinct often appears in the post-movie seasons of the TV series.
- Just Train Wrong: You can't just stop a freight train at a station for a coffee break like it's a car at a rest stop. Also why is there a 19th century steam train operating in the late 90's? While circus trains still exist today, they use modern locomotives and rolling stock and the train operators are not affiliated with the circus. There would also be numerous safety regulations that would not allow leaving a loaded and operational circus train unattended.
- Kick the Dog: Rex is full of these moments, such as harassing Didi about how she'll "never see her children again" or literally kicking Stu when he (in his flying machine) collides with Rex's news helicopter, immediately after having said "our hearts go out to these poor babies' parents."
- Knight of Cerebus: The wolf brings a noticeably more tense atmosphere and would've killed the babies had Spike not been around.
- Laser-Guided Karma: At the end, arrogant Jerkass reporter Rex Pester (already injured from Stu accidentally causing his chopper to crash) finally meets his karma when being ambushed by the circus monkeys, to everyone's amusement.
- Laughably Evil: Rex Pester, though not exactly evil, can bring a few chuckles due to his personality.
- Last-Minute Baby Naming: Justified in this case, as Stu and Didi were told they were having a girl and planned on naming her after Stu's mother. When Dil makes his appearance, they quickly rework the idea and name him after Didi's cousin.
- The Load: Dil is firmly in this role for the most part. Averted after his Heel Realization.
- Meaningful Name: Rex Pester, the nosy and irritating reporter covering the lost kids' story.
- Missed Him by That Much: When Stu is speeding his car after Grandpa Lou lost the kids, he's right behind the mattress delivery truck that the babies are currently inside of. The truck door opens briefly, but Stu isn't watching the road at that moment, as he's talking to Grandpa. ("We'll never find the babies with this jerk in front of us!") Then the truck door closes shut just as Stu turns his attention back to the road. Then as Stu passes the truck, he inadvertently causes it to swerve and crash through the guard rail and plunge into the forest. Good thing the truck driver jumped out just in time.
- Missing Child: The film focuses on the babies Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil trying to send Tommy's younger brother Dil back to the hospital and ending up getting lost in the woods. Tommy's spoilt, older cousin Angelica later goes missing too when she sets out to get back her Cynthia doll Dil snatched from her earlier.
- Naked People Are Funny: Tommy's diaper falls down because of Dil during an argument at one point, and it quickly dissolves all the tension in the scene while the other kids start giggling.
- Narrator: Chuckie, very briefly at the beginning and the end.
- Nature Is Not Nice: The woods that the babies get lost in are big and dark woods. The babies almost fall over a waterfall, Dil gets taken away by escaped circus monkeys, and also a wolf stalks and almost kills the babies.
- Never My Fault:
Grandpa: Einstein here lost the kids.
- It's quite clear that the entire mess is Grandpa Lou's fault, who once again fell asleep while watching the kids. Grandpa tells Didi that Stu lost the kids, but Didi doesn't buy it. They both call Grandpa out on this.
Stu: I lost the kids?!
[Didi gasps and drops her grocery bag, sending all products rolling on the floor]
Didi: I can't believe you left them with your father! The man slept through Pearl Harbor for heaven's sake!
- Later when the police arrive at the scene:
Grandpa: I sounded the alarm as soon as I could!
Phil: This is all Dil's fault, right, Chuckie?
- Also the fact that the babies are lost in the woods is the twins' fault, as they tried to put Dil in the wagon against Tommy's wishes and Chuckie tried to talk them out of it, but they wouldn't listen. Tommy even calls the twins out on it, while Chuckie is just in the middle of the argument.
Tommy: Nuh-uh! This never would've happened if you guys hadn't put him in the wagon in the first place! Right, Chuckie?
- Non-Malicious Monster: The monkeys, if the ending is any indication—in the end, they and the babies had the same end goal: To go find their family, in this case, the two circus ringleaders who raised them.
- Not So Different: The babies and the monkeys: they're both lost in the woods because of their own actions and they both have a happy reunion with their respective families at the end.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Stu and Grandpa when they first realize the babies are lost.
- The babies the second time they hear the wolf howl in the distance (the first time it happened, it looked like Tommy did it), and then again when the wolf actually appears on the bridge.
- Out of Focus: Once the babies get lost, Angelica gets the least screen time out of everybody including the adults up until the climax.
- Papa Wolf:
- Plot Hole: When Stu & Grandpa go to the airport control tower and check to see if the kids are on the plane where the crate is, but find out the goat is there instead. This makes no sense. There's no possible way the goat would've made it on to the plane, as x-ray scanners at airport security would've detected it.
- Police are Useless: Played straight with Ranger Frank who is too busy deliriously ranting about the "dragon" (actually the Reptar Wagon) he saw to be of any use to the Parents, but averted with Ranger Margaret.
- Predators Are Mean: The wolf. For the most part it acts like a normal wolf, but the one trait that puts it more on the evil end of the scale is that it spends most of the movie specifically targeting the babies. During it's fight with Spike in the climax, Angelica blows as raspberry at it and it actually takes notice of this, turns around and is ready to bring his jaws down on her, making this wolf seem exceptionally petty in addition to being mean.
- Rage Breaking Point: After saving him from the monkeys, Dil's constant selfishness finally pushes Tommy over the edge, and he promptly chews him out.
- Raiders of the Lost Parody: The film has an entire opening Fake-Out Opening recreating the first scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark straight down to the original score. Hell, Tommy dons the moniker and outfit of Indy, or "Okeydokey Jones", later on in the movie.
- Refuse to Rescue the Disliked:
- Dil gets taken by a pack of runaway circus monkeys. Tommy sets off to rescue him, and asks Chuckie, Phil, and Lil if they're going to help him. Phil and Lil refuse, because they see Dil as nothing but a nuisance. Chuckie refuses to help Tommy by reminding him of all the times throughout the movie he didn't help him (because at those times, Dil needed his attention).
- This is repeated later in the movie, when Chuckie suffers a Heel Realization and insists they go back to help Tommy. Phil and Lil again refuse, reminding him he only cared about Dil's wellbeing rather than his. Chuckie makes the meek reasoning "Well somebody has to... don't they?". It seems to work.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tommy gives a HUGE one to Dil when he's had enough of Dil's behavior.
- Running into the Window: Tommy, Chuckie, and Phil and Lil all do this in the movie's prologue after Didi finds them trying to get in the fridge. Currently provides the page image.
- Savage Wolves: One that stalks and tries to kill the babies.
- Scared of What's Behind You: At the climax, the monkeys corner the babies, but suddenly flee. The babies cheer... only to turn and see a huge vicious wolf slowly stalking them ready to pounce. Thankfully, Spike saves them just in time.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After Tommy finds out Dil was taken by the circus monkeys, Phil and Lil refuse to help Tommy find him and say that Tommy can find Dil on his own. Chuckie also refuses to help Tommy because of how Tommy has only looked out for Dil's wellbeing over his, so all three of them leave Tommy and Dil behind in the woods. Granted, it was Phil and Lil's fault in the first place they were stuck out there and karma does bite them back when Phil almost gets crushed by a falling tree. The second time is Tommy's Heroic Breakdown where he decides to just leave Dil with the monkeys after he finally reaches his Rage Breaking Point. Thankfully, he reconsiders and doesn't go through with it.
- Selfless Wish: The babies are very willing to make one. Rather than wish to go home like they originally wanted, they wish to get Spike back.
- Sleep Cute: Tommy and Dil under the blanket, under the tree.
- Stock Audio: If you listen closely during the film's trailer, you'll notice that the music playing is ripped straight from the Jim Carrey movie Liar Liar.
- Take That!: At Disney, when a Bambi-esque scene with cute woodland animals is shattered by the runaway Reptar Wagon.
- The Stinger: After the closing credits, we see Grampa sleeping in the Reptar Wagon...which the goat then accidentally knocks onto the road.
- Toilet Humor: Frequently, such as when the babies in the nursery make a pee rainbow.
- Wanted A Son Instead: Dil was expected to be a girl and was going to be named after Stu's deceased mother Trixie. When he turned out to be male, he was named after Didi's cousin Dylan.
- Wham Line: After they find the wolf's paw print, Tommy seems to imitate the wolf's howl. Phil compliments him on the imitation, only for Tommy to say he didn't do it. Uh-oh.(Tommy trips over something)
Chuckie: Tommy, are you okay?
Tommy: I'm fine. I just tripped in a little hole, that's all.
(camera zooms on a large paw print on the ground)
Chuckie: Gosh, it looks kinda like Spike's feet, only if he was a giant.
Phil: I saw feetprints like that in our storybook. A wolf made them, and then he ate that Little Red Riding girl.
Chuckie: The wolf ate a girl?
Phil: They got her out.
Tommy: I don't think it's a wolf, Chuckie. If it was, we'd hear him say...
(The wolf howls in the distance as Tommy prepares to mimic such a sound.)
Phil: That was pretty good.
Tommy: I didn't do anything.
(The wolf howls again.)
All: WOLF!!! (The Rugrats jump into into the Reptar Wagon and speed off)
- You Need a Breath Mint: When the wolf is stalking Spike and Angelica. Angelica, oblivious to the wolf, smells its breath and thinks it's from Spike. Spike notices the wolf and quickly manages to drag the unsuspecting Angelica out of the wolf's clutches.