Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Adventure,Comedy Rated: The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

Rated: The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

In a time of straight-to-DVD animated sequels and TV show spin offs it is easy to forget about animation as a form of art rather than a cheap and easy way for movie and television studios to make money at the expense of integrity. Animation is just not cool anymore. Kids want more and adults refuse to sit through something that follows the same storyline they’ve seen a million times before. What’s the solution? Doing something different! Duh.

Easily the last good non-Pixar-created  animated film to come from Disney in a long time, Emperor’s New Groove is Disney’s attempt at doing something different. Feeling more akin to an extended Looney Tunes cartoon, Emperor’s New Groove sheds much of the serious-down-to-business tone running rampant in other Disney flicks. Instead, we get brilliantly comic chracters, fast-paced action scenes throughout, excellent comedic timing, and not one annoyingly long gag-inducing song montage. It may not be a classic, but it is fun to watch for all ages.

Synopsis: Emperor Kuzco is the young, self-centered, spoiled emperor of an Aztec-like civilization. He prides himself on being “cool” and pretty much does whatever he wants with no care in the world for others, including building a waterpark for his birthday celebration that will destroy a village. He fires his administrator, the creepy and sinister Yzma as a direct result of his quest to be hip. Yzma, furious with Kuzco, plans to get revenge by gaining control of the throne herself. Her plan goes tragically wrong when instead of killing Kuzco, Yzma turns him into a llama. Running from Yzma, Kuzco eventually meets Pacha, one of the villagers that will be losing their homes due to Kuzco’s waterpark construction. When Pancha learns of Kuzco’s real identity, he agrees to help Kuzco get his true form back and get revenge on Yzma, but only if Kuzco won’t destroy his house. Together they set off on a hilarious adventure in the hope of finding out the importance of selflessness.

Acting/Voicing: The character voicing in this movie is fantastic. All of the chracters are memorable, vivid, and meaningful thanks to the voices behind them. David Spade (Joe Dirt) plays Kuzko, and even if you aren’t a fan of Spade, you will love Kuzko and his transformation from egocentric maniac to pitiful sobbering llama. John Goodman (The Big Labowski) voices Pancha. The frendly and caring tone of his voice does wonders to invoke sympathy for his character. Yzma is played by the late Erza Kitt (Holes) whose screechy high-pitched voice is both sinister and hilarious at times, whenever appropriate. Patrick Warburton (TV’s Family Guy) steals the show here as Kronk, the slow-witted assistant to Yzma. His personality is a perfect fit and his excellent comedic timing helps to make his character one of my favorites in any film. (23/25)

Script/Plot: Like I mentioned earlier this is more of a Looney Tunes-like escapade than a true Disney film like we’re used to. The plot is action/adventure based, and relies on a quick pace to keep things interested. Much of the comedy is visual slapstick, situational contrast, or built up through dialogue. The result is a movie that is funny on different levels and this is key to making it enjoyable for everyone. Kids will appreciate the slapstick while adults will find the absurd situational subtleties more agreeable. Nevertheless, this movie does not stray too far from the predictable Disney formula with an overbearing life message driving the chracters and their actions. So it may be a tad predictable at times, but the message is a good one, one that even adults I often find could tend to learn again. If you don’t laugh or cry when watching this movie, something is wrong with you. (23/25)

Direction: Mark Dindel (Chicken Little) directs. He is an animator who has created the effects of movies such as Aladdin, and The Brave Little Toaster. He knows what he is doing and it shows. The film is brilliantly illistrated in a colorful but not-too-realistic manner that echos the plot and characters. The plot is wonderfully crafted such that it is not a typical arrangement, yet is easy to follow. Dindel frames all his scenes with beautiful and vast backgrounds that remind me of the exaggerated heights in the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, so in this manner he is playing homage to animation in the past, especially the 1960’s. (22/25)

Animation/Music/X-Factor: Although the characters break into song a few times, it is rare and welcomed as a break from the action. Unfortunately, none of the songs are really that memorable, so it is a wash. Besides the songs that the characters sing, the soundtrack is decent. It channels the 1960’s cartoons in the way that the music is used to enhance the action in comical ways. Animation is well done, nothing seems choppy or grainy as older animated movies are now starting to seem as a result of computer animation. The legacy of this film, though, is that mixing up the formula in the right way can yield big dividends. Something Disney doesn’t do all that often. (20/25)

The Verdict:

What Kept Me Watching: Written and performed so well that it is hard not to find something to like. Kids and adults will be entertained (and I really mean that), which is a task few movies are able to accomplish.

What Killed It: Some people will never sit down to watch an animated feature, some people hoping for a typical Disney movie will be disappointed.

Summary: A well rounded animated movie that, although it won’t be remembered as a classic, is probably Disney’s most underrated film.

Final Rating: 88/100 = B+

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