Based on the popular 1990s animated Nickelodeonseries,Rugrats, this film introduced Tommy's baby brother Dil Pickles, who was named after Didi Pickles' cousin, and appeared on the original series the next year. The film was released in theatres with aCatDog short titled "Fetch", in which Cat wins a radio contest and attempts to answer the phone as Dog chases down his tennis ball. (This short was later broadcast in CatDog episode 21.) However, the video release contained a different CatDog short, "Winslow's Home Videos". The film marks the first film made by Nickelodeon Movies to be based on a Nicktoon. This was also the last Nickelodeon film to be released in the 1990s, and to be credited as Nickelodeon on the film's Nickelodeon Movies logo. It also marked the first use of the infamous Klasky Csupo robot logo (the graffiti logo had been used more for Rugrats before then and, up until a certain point in the series, was still used) by Rugrats media and in the theatrical releases of Nick's movies. Many longtime Rugrats fans believe this movie to be the point in which Rugrats jumped the shark; however, some fans believed that The Rugrats Movie was when Rugrats was still good or getting better. Slap T. Pooch from Nickelodeon's animation showcase Oh Yeah! Cartoons appeared in the Nickelodeon Movies logo sequence to this film, getting his fingers stuck to a sticky orange liquid, before getting stomped by a giant. Also, this counts as the only Nickelodeon product aired on CBS, besides the later started Nick on CBS.
The film features the voices of Elizabeth Daily, Christine Cavanaugh, Kath Soucie, Cheryl Chase, Cree Summer, Tara Strong, and Charlie Adler, along with guest stars David Spade, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Cho, and Tim Curry.
The film begins with the babies attempting to steal a banana spilt from a refigerator by using their imaginations by pretending they are in the Puru temple from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark when suddenly a pregnant Didi enters the kitchen (representing the boulder that chases them out of the temple) and puts them back outside for the babyshower. While outside, Grandpa gives the babies chocolate coins to eat, but Tommy wants to save it to buy his new baby sister. Later, at the hospital (which the babies call the "baby store"), the babies can't seem to find a perfect sibling for Tommy. Then Tommy is brought to the room to meet his new brother, Dil, who punches Tommy in the nose and makes him cry.
Tommy secretly feels that his brother is hogging all the love from their parents, which is true in a way one can see, when the parents sing Dil a lullaby instead of reading a story to Tommy. Though Tommy's friends are rather sick of him crying all the time, Tommy does feel love and responsibility towards Dil, especially when his father gives him a watch with their picture inside. Tommy calls the watch a "Sponsitility" (his mistake of the word "responsibility"). At the same time, Tommy, Phil and Lil and Chuckie see Stu's new invention, the Reptar Wagon, (which was made for a contest in Japan) and they put Dil inside so that they can drive him back to the hospital, except for Chuckie, who is trying to stick up for Tommy. Tommy tries to stop the twins from taking his brother, but Angelica comes on scene, is angered at the babies for being so loud, and accidentally kicks the Reptar Wagon out the open front door with the babies inside. However, just after the babies get down the street, she realizes that Dil has her Cynthia doll.
Of other incidents, the babies end up inside a mattress truck, which leaves the factory to travel down a highway. Meanwhile at the Pickles' house, a delivery man comes and takes a crate in his truck, which was meant to have the Reptar Wagon inside it, but instead now holds a goat from Didi's parents. Stu comes upstairs and sees the crate is gone, and presumably his Wagon. He asks Lou where the kids are, but when Lou remembers that the kids had been playing in the crate before, both men shriek in realization that the kids must be still in the crate, on their way to Japan.
The mattress truck that holds the babies and the wagon swerves off the highway and down into a forest. When the babies emerge, they stand amazed at how big the new place is. They change Dil's diaper, a horrific experience, and Chuckie blames Dil for a frog that hopped on his head. The parents, now knowing their kids are missing, and call the police to help search. Angelica, pulled by Spike is going down the same highway off which the babies crashed, which is closed off and marked by flares. She is forced over the ridge of the road, crashes down a tree, and is knocked out. She wakes up with Spike in her face, now in the same forest the babies are lost in.
Meanwhile, all the adults run out of the Pickles' house, to be met by the press and media in the front yard, showering them with questions. An action news reporter named Rex Pester is among them, who nags Didi about how she feels about the situation. Once Drew and Charlotte drive up to see what is going on, Rex tells Drew that his brother lost his only daughter, and a fight ensues. Chaz comes on scene, telling everyone that someone saw Angelica heading north down a highway. Everyone leaves for said highway. Soon after arriving, a police officer finds a binky that belongs to one of the babies.
The babies go up the hill and see the area covered in forest, and their houses are nowhere.Chuckie falls down to his knees and cries out that they must be doomed, and a wolf below the hill sees them. Phil and Lil blame the mess on Dil. As Tommy defends Dil, Dil rips off Tommy's diaper strap and it completely falls down, his friends able to see his front private, the viewers view his backside. Tommy is extremely embarrassed and he pulls it up. After that, he proposes that they could go see the "lizard" (his mistake of the word "wizard" from Oz) who can give them a wish that they can use to go home. Chuckie sees smoke between the forest trees in the distance, which must mean the lizard lives there. Tommy is about to lead his friends back down the hill when he accidentally steps in a wolf footprint. The babies, frightened, get into the wagon and speed off down the hill into a forest. They zoom right past two park rangers in a jeep. One of the rangers glimpes the Reptar Wagon and assumes it to be a dragon. The babies, thanks to Dil, fall into a river. The Wagon inflates a raft around itself, and they enjoy their boat ride. They float under a bridge just as the rangers' jeep passes over them. When the two rangers get to their cabin, the woman who saw the "dragon" tries to tell headquarters, and the other laughs off her sighting. He casually looks into a telescope and sees the wagon floating in the river. He cries out in fear, thinking it was a dragon. The other ranger looks, but doesn't see the wagon.
The parents and police, all at the highway, still search for clues. Lou finds a candy wrapper from Angelica and Howard and Stu find tire tracks. Stu usumes that they're in his Reptar Wagon, and goes home, and idea in mind. The babies are having a grand time until Chuckie falls overboard. He is saved by Phil and Lil, but not Tommy, as he was busy helping Dil, who almost fell in. They narrowly avoid going down a waterfall, and in a team effort they drive their wagon out of the water and crash into a tree on shore.
At the Pickles House, Stu and Chaz are lowering Dactar, a flying machine that Stu made years ago. He plans to use it to search for the kids by air. The machine drops and falls on Lou, and when the dust clears, he's asleep under the wreck. The babies go in circles around a tree, thanks to directions from Tommy's Sponsitility. Chuckie sees a crashed train with a clown face painted on it and they all discover that monkeys are inside (they belonged to two men who worked at a circus and they took there train and drove it away and it crashed at this spot). The creatures come out and play with the kids, though Chuckie is not amused. Tommy has to stop playing to feed Dil, and the monkeys, attracted by the banana flavor, start licking Dil. Tommy runs off to chase some monkeys who stole Dil's diaper bag, and during this Dil is taken away by monkeys and Chuckie steps on his glasses, cracking them.
Angelica, still being pulled by Spike, forces him to stop as her rollerblade is cracked. While she mourns wistfully over Cynthia, the wolf creeps up behind her. Just before it can snap at her head, Spike runs in fear, taking Angelica with him. Stu's on the roof of his house, mounted on the seat of Dactar, which is attached to the car that Lou is going to drive. Lou mistakes Chaz's directions and takes off down the road. Dactar and Stu fly clumsily after.Phil, Lil and Chuckie try and replace Dil with a baby monkey, but Tommy sees and in angered at them. The others refuse to help find Dil, though Chuckie is unsure. Tommy walks off by himself to find his brother as rainclouds gather.
Angelica, having had enough of Spike pulling her, forces him to a stop as it begins to rain. he hides between trees to keep from getting wet while Angelica sings a number about how she's going to get Cynthia, and just after it ends, Spike drags her by the leash-caught by her foot, and took deeper yet into the forest. The park rangers are at their cabin. The blonde ranger tries to tell his companion, the girl who saw a "dragon" to be cool and calm. Just then dark figures enter the cabin and he falls over in fright. The figures are the missing kids parents, who beg for help. The blonde ranger refuses to go where dragons are, but the other ranger quickly helps them and tells the parents to follow her.
Tommy finds Dil being dragged in the dirt by monkeys. He takes his brother under a shelter of tree roots and tries to share a bottle with him--which Dil drinks all of--and share a blanket with him--which Dil hogs every last bit of. They fight over the blanket, and when it rips, Tommy falls in the mud. Dil laughs at him. Tommy then refuses to be his brother any longer, even throws away his Sponsitility, and is about to waste a can of Dil's baby food, when Dil clings tightly to him and sobs. Tommy stops his terrible actions and takes Dil back to the tree-root shelter. He gives Dil half the blanket, and Dil gives Tommy the other half. They sleep happily while it rains outside.
Phil, Lil and Chuckie are not so lucky. They are out in the rain and lightning, seeing scary shapes from the shadows in the trees, and lightning even strikes one down. The tree falls and gets Phil, the babies realize that their situation is no longer an adventure. Phil proposes that they go find the lizard to get them home already, but Chuckie knows that if they do that, Tommy and Dil won't get home. A few hours later, around dusk, the parents and a park ranger--who is helping them search in her jeep--are trying to push the jeep out of the mud while Didi starts crying out in hopelessness. Stu calls her on radio, announcing that he is flying on his Dactar Flying Machine to help in aerial search. He appears to not be the best pilot.
Tommy and Dil awake to see monkeys stalking towards them. When they are about to be taken, Phil and Lil come and pull the monkeys away to save them. Chuckie drives the Reptar Wagon up and scares more off. He takes a can of banana-flavored baby food and runs off, passing Angelica, who doesn't have Spike with her, on the way. The monkeys follow. He stumbles at the top of a grassy cliff, right above the river where the babies floated and sailed hours earlier. On the other side of the river is the wolf. Chuckie tosses the can into the river, but some of the contents still spill on him and the monkeys attempt to lick him to death. Just then, Tommy comes up the hill, riding Spike. They both mount the dog and ride away, being chased, until they fall off. Phil and Lil hear their screaming and run to them, but all four are surrounded by monkeys. When they're about to be grabbed, Dil comes driving the wagon. They hop in as it passes by, and push off monkeys that try to get in. Angelica comes in as well as they ride onto an old bridge.
Angelica nearly falls through a gap in the planks, but the others help her up. Just then the monkeys catch up but before they can appear to be aggressive, they run screaming off the bridge. The babies cheer, but abruptly stop when they turn to see the wolf behind them. Spike comes to their rescue and fights the wolf, in the process getting his collar ripped off. Spike grabs the wolf's tail in his mouth and pulls it over the edge of the bridge. The babies begin to cry, oblivious to the fact that Stu is flying above them, telling everyone on the radio contact that he found the kids. He tries to land, but crashes instead, and when he rises, he has the Dactar machine clinging onto his body, making him appear as the lizard.
Tommy goes up to him and wishes for Spike to come back. Stu falls through old planks in the bridge and when the babies look down they see Stu and Spike safe on the riverbank. Headlights appear and police cars and jeeps come up carrying the parents. They rush out to hug their kids. Another police car pulls up, carrying the circus masters of the monkeys. Rex Pester appears to try and hog news screentime on camera, but the monkeys smother both him and the camera, chasing him off. The movie comes to a final close as Chuckie narrates how life is much better with Dil around (as just like the opening scene it is Dil who gets the banana split for the babies sucessfully).
After the credits, there is a post-credits scene where goat kicks the Reptar Wagon and it speeds off, carrying a sleeping Lou. (In the television version, this scene was seen before the credits, due to the use of promos during the credits.)
- E.G. Daily as Tommy Pickles
- Tara Strong as Dil Pickles
- Christine Cavanaugh as Chuckie Finster
- Kath Soucie as Phil and Lil DeVille
- Cheryl Chase as Angelica Pickles
- Jack Riley as Stu Pickles
- Melanie Chartoff as Didi Pickles
- Busta Rhymes as Reptar Wagon
- Joe Alaskey as Grandpa Lou
- Michael Bell as Drew Pickles / Chas Finster
- Kath Soucie as Betty DeVille
- Tress MacNeille as Charlotte Pickles
- Cree Summer as Susie Carmichael
- Michael Bell as Grandpa Boris
- Melanie Chartoff as Grandma Minka
- Phil Proctor as Howard DeVille
- David Spade as Ranger Frank
- Whoopi Goldberg as Ranger Margaret
- Tim Curry as Rex Pester
- Roger Clinton, Jr. as Air Crewman
- Margaret Cho as Lt. Klavin
- Edie McClurg as Nurse
- Charlie Adler as United Express driver
- Gregg Berger as Circus TV announcer
- Tony Jay as Dr. Lipschitz
- Frank Welker (uncredited) as The Wolf and The Circus Monkeys
- Baby singers
- Lenny Kravitz
- Lou Rawls
- Iggy Pop
- Lisa Loeb
- Gordon Gano
- Fred Schneider
- Patti Smith
- Kate Pierson
- Jakob Dylan
- Dawn Robinson
- Laurie Anderson
- Cindy Wilson
Two songs were cut from the film during production in order to bring the film to 85 minutes. The first sequence revolved around Stu and Didi in a nightmare sequence where Dr. Lipschitz berates their parenting through song. The other sequence occurs as the Rugrats are pushing the Reptar Wagon through the woods, debating what to do about Dil in army chant style. These two scenes were cut from the theatrical version and the VHS and DVD releases. However, they were already animated at the time, and the scenes are shown on CBS andNickelodeonTV airings of the film. These scenes were present in the print novelization.
Paramount released the film on VHS and DVD on March 30, 1997, and was on sale from then until 2008. The film had been out of print until 2011 when The Rugrats Movie and its sequels were re-released on a 3-disc trilogy collection, to coincide with Rugrats' 20th anniversary. A Blu-ray version of the films has yet to be announced. The 1997 DVD has resurfaced in stores.
Though the films on the 3-disc trilogy are presented in the 2.20:1 aspect ratio, the first film in the set has slight windowboxing, which was not present in the previous single-disc widescreen and release. The other two films in the set do not have this issue.
Video games were released for Game Boy and Game Boy Color titled The Rugrats Movieand Rugrats: The Movie respectively, with the former being released on June 27, 1997and the latter on March 12, 1999. Both games were developed by Software Creationsand released by THQ. They were side-scrolling video games and featured 8 levels, with the plot revolving around finding a replacement for Dil after he disappears. IGN's Peer Schneider graded the Game Boy Color game with an overall score of 5 out of 10.Schneider states that the game doesn't have much "to hold the attention of older game", but that "kids will love the easy gameplay, recognizable characters and memorable Rugrats tunes". He closes with saying that "unless you're looking for something to entertain and challenge at the same time, parents can't go wrong in buying the game for their kids." Writing for Gamespot, Cameron Davis gave the Rugrats: The Movie a mixed review, stating that it wasn't "groundbreaking or innovative", but that the game "does what it sets out to do well". Davis noted that the game was aimed at children and praised the "difficulty level" as being "set just right", so that "younger players can explore the levels in comfort thanks to the good collision detection and responsive controls, while those with a bit more Game Boy experience can use the generous time limits to ferret out hidden objects". The game overall was given a 6.2 by the critic. On aggregator site GameRankings, The Rugrats Movie is rated as a 55%while Rugrats: The Movie earned a 61.75%.
A computer game inspired by the film entitled The Rugrats Movie: Activity Challenge was developed and published by Brøderbund Software, Inc. and released on May 9, 1997. It featured six games and a bonus level that could be attained if a certain item was obtained in a game.
Several books were released by Simon & Schuster's Simon Spotlight branch and Nickelodeon inspired by The Rugrats Movie. Tommy's New Playmate and The Rugrats Versus the Monkeys were also released on May 1, 1997, authored by Luke David and illustrated by John Kurtz and Sandrina Kurtz. The Rugrats Movie Storybook, released on the same date and using the same illustrators and publishers, was written by Sarah Wilson. The same date saw the release of The Rugrats Movie: Hang On To Your Diapies, Babies, We're Going In!: Trivia from the Hit Movie!, a trivia book written by Kitty Richards.
A novelization of the film written by Cathy East Dubowski was published on May 1, 1997, by Tandem Library. The following month, a 144-page guidebook, The Making of The Rugrats Movie: Behind the Scenes at Klasky Csupo, was released on June 1, 1997, by MSG. In May 1999, Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation released a book titled The Rugrats Movie.
The Rugrats Movie was released on June 8, 1997, where it opened on 2,782 screens, and made $27,321,470 United States Dollars in its opening weekend, averaging about $9,821 per venue. In total, The Rugrats Movie made $140,894,675 USD, $100,494,675 from the domestic market and $40,400,000 from its foreign release. It also debuted #1 at the UK box office.
The Rugrats Movie was met with mixed to positive reactions from critics. It received a 59% on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with 29 "Fresh" reviews and 20 "Rotten" reviews, certifying it as "Rotten".Among the site's top critics, the film was certified as "Fresh", with 60% of the 10 reviews being positive. Rotten Tomatoes' overall consensus on The Rugrats Movie was "charming characters; loads of fun for kids and adults." Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of 4. Ebert noted that the film's target audience was more for younger children, and that, while he as an adult disliked it, he "might have" liked it if he were younger and would recommend it for children. The New York Times's Anita Gates reviewed The Rugrats Movie positively, calling it a "delight".Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly graded the film with a B. Schwarzbaum praised the movie for its appeal to both adult and child audiences, "juxtaposing the blithely self-absorbed parallel universes of small, diapered children and their large, Dockered parents". However, other Entertainment Weekly reviewer Ty Burr gave The Rugrats Movie a B-, criticizing that the film's issues sprung from it being "bigger" than the original series, thus it having more cultural references, out-of-place CGI scenes, and "[going] into scary territory".Despite these faults, Burr did praise the "escaped circus monkeys" for being "scary in a good way", as well as a joke that was accessible to younger audiences.