REVIEW: The New ‘Rugrats’ Is Great, Actually

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Rugrats - But Why Tho

I’m too young to have really grown up on 90s Nickelodeon. My childhood experience with Rugrats was a mix of re-runs, feature movies, as well as video games, and other tie-in media. So my nostalgia for the series is in the middle of the road. I loved the movies and certain episodes but was too young to have as deep an attachment as kids who may have grown up with it longer. All of this is to say, I had no strong feelings one way or another when Paramount+ announced they were rebooting the show with the original baby cast but a new 3D CGI design.

The new Rugrats is great, actually. In pretty much every way. The humor is great. The CGI is great. The modernization of certain character and setting elements is great. It’s not perfect, don’t get it twisted. But it’s nevertheless good.  Watching the new Rugrats as an adult doesn’t feel like I’m watching a show aimed at young kids while also situating itself as a clever vehicle for learning life’s lessons apt for a younger audience.

I chuckled my way through every bit of “Second Time Around” and every episode thereafter. In the premiere episode, Angelica (Cheryl Chase) convinces Chuckie (Nancie Cartwright) and the rest of the babies that he has a terrible case of Wormy Oliosis, a terrible affliction that will slowly turn Chuckie into a worm boy. The conceit gave me plenty of giggles on top of Phil (Kath Soucie) and Lil’s (Kath Soucie) banter and antics, Grandpa Lou’s (Michael McKean) Silver Beagle dating app mishaps, and just the joy of a simple show about some adventurous kiddos with oblivious parents. The baby-talk mispronunciation of words was as endearing as ever and never grating. Truly, it just felt like any other episode of Rugrats.

The new Rugrats looks nothing like the old Rugrats. But also, it looks just like the old Rugrats. The new show is a 3D CGI Animation compared to a hand-drawn 2D style, and yes, it’s jarring at first. But nearly immediately, I was used to it, and a short while into the show, I even liked it. All the characters look as much like themselves as they ever have. And in this new 3D world, there’s a totally dynamic camera that swoops around through the 3D environment, especially in the house and backyard. I’ve never seen anything like it in animation. The camera treats the environment like it’s real and navigable.

And there is nothing overly juvenile or overly adult about the show. The aforementioned mispronunciations are just funny, full stop. And for as much as the adults are full-blown millennials who play video games and run online businesses, the jokes aren’t pandering to the demographic or exaggerated in any grating way. It just feels like a show displaying what modern parents might look like, albeit with a few stylistic choices more reminiscent of the 90s than today. Nothing about the show screams essentialism either—no inference that its characters are meant to reflect its audience. Its original viewers need not have grown with the parents, and viewers need not relate to them either. You just need to sit, enjoy, and laugh.

The new Rugrats is great, actually, and I will not apologize for saying it. It’s funny, it doesn’t pander to modern audiences, and it even looks pretty good. But does it have room to blunder with future episodes? Of course. Is it a little too white and privileged, perhaps unrealistic for the average millennial experience? Yeah, duh. But it’s fine. The show is great; a big yes, please, and thanks. It’s a worthy reiteration of a classic. Rugrats has gleefully entered a new millennium without losing a wink of its original charm.

Rugrats is streaming now on Paramount+.

Rugrats
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TL;DR

The new Rugrats is great, actually, and I will not apologize for saying it. It’s funny, it doesn’t pander to modern audiences, and it even looks pretty good. But does it have room to blunder with future episodes? Of course. Is it a little too white and privileged, perhaps unrealistic for the average millennial experience? Yeah, duh. But it’s fine. The show is great. It’s a worthy reiteration of a classic.