I'm not the biggest fan of crossovers. I don't know why that is because it does seem like an ambitious and fun idea to take characters from other properties and have them meet up and interact with one another, but for me, I've always found them rather repetitive and always a way to get fans of two certain properties together so they could make a lot of money. Sadly, "Rugrats Go Wild" is another example of why I don't think some properties work together. This Nickelodeon movie combines two of its most famous cartoons, "Rugrats" and "The Wild Thornberrys", together and it doesn't work. It has its moments and I don't think it is as bad as its reputation makes it out to be, it's just not a very good movie.
The titular Rugrats the fearless Tommy (E.G. Daily), the fearsome Chuckie (Nancy Cartwright), the twins Phil and Lil (Kath Soucie), the bold Kimi (Dionne Quad), the kindly Susie (Cree Summer), and Tommy's younger brother Dil (Tara Strong) have been obsessed over famed explorer Nigel Thornberry (Tim Curry) on TV. While Tommy wants to grow up to be just like him, the bratty Angelica (Cheryl Chase) snaps that he is too ambitious and has his head in the clouds. While that's going on, their parents are planning a week cruise planned by Tommy's dad Stu (Jack Riley) only for it to be discovered that the cruise is not on a luxury cruise ship but rather a dingy towboat making everyone angered at him. To make matters worse, they get caught in a storm and the ship sinks leaving the families stranded in a lifeboat before washing up on a deserted island. However, it turns out the island isn't actually deserted as the Wild Thornberry family consisting of Eliza (Lacey Chabert) who can speak to animals, her pet monkey sidekick Darwin (Tom Kane), her bossy older sister Debbie (Danielle Harris), wild boy Donnie (Flea), the aforementioned crazed explorer father Nigel, and the camera operating mother Marianne (Jodi Carlisle) are also on the island looking for a clouted leopard and soon enough, all the characters will meet together and wacky hijinks ensue.
While watching this film, I just kept wondering to myself how this film ended up in theaters. This is the kind of movie that would be better served on TV as an hour-long special rather than an hour and a half long film and yet Paramount got greedy and decided to bump the film to a theatrical film. It kind of shows that this premise wasn't really made for theaters because the story is easily the biggest problem with the film. The way the characters all meet up with one another and get involved in some crazy antics all would work fine on TV, but as a film is feels very chaotic at times and not as large as the film thinks it's trying to be. It also doesn't help that the film has a lot of pacing problems and feels either rushed or padded at times. For example, after the families arrive at the dock, they see the ship is pulling away even though less than a minute early, the ship was still moored and the gangways are still parked on the ship and aren't seen being pulled away. At other times, the film just has scenes go on and on and they get dull after a while. For a film that's only eighty minutes long, it felt like it went on far longer than it should have mainly just to pad out the running time. It also doesn't help that the way the family gets washed up felt so convenient and simple that it didn't have any surprises or moments that'll keep the audience engaged. Now what could make up for this if the film was funny, and most of the time it's sadly not. There are a couple of funny jokes throughout the film including a funny joke where Angela is trying to calm the families on the lifeboat by singing "The Morning After" from "The Poseidon Adventure". That was a funny reference. The rest of the jokes though are rather duds and mostly just linger on trying to get a laugh but not really packing any punch. They don't leave you rolling your eyes or groaning, you're just left not laughing. It mainly comes down to the fact that the characters aren't given a lot to do and don't have a lot of huge challenges or risks on the island which is fitting for a TV special, but not a film. It mostly comes down to the film having the characters conveniently do all the kind of stuff you expect in a film like this where the parents of the characters from Rugrats argue with Stu over his decision to have the families go on a tugboat, the babies getting lost in the jungle looking for Nigel, Angelica and Debbie bonding as their both really nasty and bratty, and a conflict with a jaguar that feels resolved all too quickly. It isn't fun or exciting, it's just stale and tiresome. The only thing that stands out is that Eliza ends up running into the Rugrats dog Spike and he's voiced by Bruce Willis, but it stands out for all the wrong reasons. I normally love Bruce Willis, but he is dreadfully miscast here and his voice just stands out like a sore thumb. I don't know why he or the people at Nickelodeon thought he was the right actor for the role, but his cool persona just doesn't work for the lovable dog. If there's one thing that does work about the film, it's the animation. For an animated film based on a TV show, the people at Klasky Csupo did a pretty fantastic job once again taking the two shows and making them work on the screen. Even the computer animation props works often well though I do think that the water has aged rather badly. I've said before that I often think that bad CG often looks like jello, and this film is no exception. It doesn't help that the film has actual water animation traditionally animated by hand at times which makes me wonder why the filmmakers used CG for some water scenes. I also want to briefly mention the soundtrack which I found rather odd. There's a lot of classic songs in here with covers of "Holiday" by Madonna and "Message in a Bottle" by the Police as well as the original versions of "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" by the Clash and "Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop, but it makes me wonder why some of the songs were chosen. I get the use of "Holiday", but the others especially "Lust for Life" just baffle me.
All in all, "Rugrats Go Wild" is a rather unimpressive animated crossover. While the animation is at times very good, the story is rather too convenient and feels made for TV, and the characters while having funny moments at times just aren't given much to do by the rather stale plot. By the end, it just leaves you feeling empty, and it's rather a shame. If you want better adventures with these characters, watch their other films or their shows respectively. This film sadly isn't as wild as it claims.