The First Time I Cried in a Theater Was During The Rugrats Movie

Screenshot: The Rugrats Movie/Nickelodeon (Netflix)

The Rugrats Movie, a 21-year-old movie featuring Nickelodeon’s beloved babies, begins streaming on Netflix this month. It’s the first movie that made me cry in a movie theater. Let me explain.

The Rugrats Movie is about Tommy Pickles, a baby, trying to adjust to the arrival of his brother, Dil Pickles (yeah). This is not easy for Tommy. Dil is a massive fucking brat who cries, hogs blankets, destroys toys, and poops a lot, as babies do. When Tommy and his crew of fellow lawless babies find Dil’s behavior untenable, they attempt to return him to the hospital. The babies take advantage of a moment of parental distraction (a common occurrence in the Rugrats universe, which, as an adult, now just looks like insurmountable amounts of benign neglect) and commandeer a Reptar-shaped toy truck in search of a place to dump Dil.

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But their master plan goes to shit when they end up lost in the woods. Along the way, Dil gets kidnapped by a rogue gang of escaped circus monkeys (just work with me here...). Tommy, determined to find Dil, falls out with his day ones—Chuckie, Phil, and Lil—who are pretty unbothered by the prospect of a baby no more than a few months old being held hostage by a bunch of monkeys. But once Tommy is reunited with his little brother, he’s reminded of how much of a pain in the fucking ass this goddamn baby is, as evidenced in this clip, aptly named by whoever uploaded it as “Tommy Finally Snaps.”

It’s a very sinister scene. There’s thunder, lightning, and monkeys. Tommy monologues his regrets, snarling at his brother’s continued insolence while the monkeys watch on with glee. “I’m through being your big brother!” he screams. Tommy is about to smear Dil with banana baby food so that the monkeys will be attracted to him—whether as a food source or camaraderie, everyone’s intentions are a little unclear—but Tommy has a change of heart when Dil starts to cry.

Instead of leaving his baby brother out in the elements for some monkeys to tear him apart limb by limb, Tommy decides to protect Dil. Moments later, he cleans Dil up, covers him with scraps of a blanket, huddles next to him for warmth, and sings him a goddamn heartwarming lullaby. Upon rewatching this scene, I see it’s absolutely nuts: emotional whiplash from start to finish and a very dark depiction of the normally affable Tommy Pickles to boot.

Whether I teared up right before or after the lullaby is unclear, but this is the moment that made me cry. I’ve always known myself to be a sucker for watching people cry on screen, especially guys, so maybe this is where it all started. I was only 8 years old, so I don’t think I fully understood that crying during The Rugrats Movie falls squarely in the “mildly pathetic” category of Shit-I-Did-in-the-’90s. But I maintain that this was a scene worth the emotional response, and it kind of holds up. Like, watch that shit and tell me your heartstrings didn’t feel a slight tug. I mean, the monkeys are... terrible, but everything else? The trauma? The angst? The sibling discord? The rekindling? Poetic cinema, lads.

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About the author

Ashley Reese

Staff writer, mint chocolate hater.