Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (US, 2000) -- dir. Stig Bergqvist and Paul Demeyer

Yes, Rugrats in Paris is a kid's flick, based on the TV series that has done so well for Nickelodeon. But this sequel is made with an eye to adult audiences as well, weaving in umpteen film-based allusions that would go over most kids' heads and with a fair bit of adult-oriented irony and attitude. It's cute and funny -- which is fine -- but more to the point it chucks in a heap of daikaiju (Japanese giant monster) references. Japanese pop culture frames and decorates the narrative, provides initial motivation, permeates much of the background and gives direct form to the extended climactic sequence.

A major part of the Rugrats mythos is Reptar, the kids' favourite toy -- a huge, Godzillaesque dinosaur, star of TV and theme parks. Rugrats in Paris begins with a rehearsal of a very Japanese pop stage show in EuroReptarland (a gaudy Japanese theme park ironically located, with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, in the middle of Paris). During the rehearsal the giant robotic Reptar shorts out, destroying the village set and losing its mammoth head. Mr Pickle -- father of one of the Rugrats -- is summoned to Paris to undertake repairs. He can bring children and friends. So off they go.

The central plot involves Chucky's quest for a mother -- and soon the evil and manipulative Coco LaBouche (enthusiastically voiced by Susan Sarandon) has her sights on Chucky's lonely (and suitably gormless) father as a convenient means of acquiring a family and thus ensuring her ascension to overall CO status of the Reptarland franchise worldwide.

Meanwhile, the exuberant extremes of Japanese pop culture are well captured throughout: great design work -- the Park and its rides -- and such delights as the chorus-line of karaoke sumo wrestlers.

The climax, however, is the pièce de résistance, as Chucky and the gang hijack the huge mecha-Reptar in an attempt to get to Notre Dame in time to prevent Chucky's father from marrying Coco. As it smashes out of its storage building and rampages through the Parisian streets, crushing cars and knocking over any available monuments (not to mention "scaling" the Eiffel Tower), it proves an excellent parody of daikaiju rampage: lots of humorous and colourful detail amid cheerfully destructive action. Reptar's movements are beautifully rendered -- both as heavy monster and kid-barely-in-control. Reptar even gets to face up to a suitably French monster -- SuperEscargo, the giant robotic snail. Great stuff.

The Rugrats inside Reptar's control room
(in his head, of course).

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