I have to admit: when The Emperor’s New Groove first came out almost 15 years ago, the trailers did not inspire me to want to see it. Even a few friends who loved it were unable to convince me to see it. At that point, I thought Disney Animation was on a downhill slope in their animation and storytelling, a slope which culminated in their worst film, Home on the Range only four years after this release.
However, after several years, and a friend who just wouldn’t quit telling me how fun the film was, I finally relented and watched it. I have to admit: it was pretty good. Kuzco (voiced by David Spade, and a narcissist of the highest order) is the Emperor of the Incan Empire. After being turned into a llama (accidentally, she really wanted to kill him) by his advisor, Yzma (Eartha Kitt), he has to convince everyone of who he is before his advisor and her bumbling henchman (Patrick Warburton) can kill him.
My favorite characters in the film were Pacha, voiced by John Goodman, and his wife, Chicha (Wendie Malick). I really loved how devoted they were to each other. Chicha was eminently capable (despite being very pregnant). Pacha had a heart of gold, and ultimately was the best character in The Emperor’s New Groove, for me. These two were very complementary.
I am not always a fan of slapstick humor, and characters constantly working for the “ba-duhn-duhn” tend to get on my nerves. I tend to prefer more subtle touches and wordplay. This film was all about the slapstick. All about hamming it up for the camera. With stellar talents like Goodman and Kitt, the film was able to add some substance to the mostly-vacuous performances of Spade and Warburton. For those who love those latter two, this is pretty much the same thing they do in every other show they are in. Nothing new. Goodman and Kitt pull off some good work, though, and Malick was right there helping them.
The music by John Debney was not terribly memorable. It did not detract from The Emperor’s New Groove, but it really didn’t enhance it much, either. The
soundtrack features a number of songs by Sting and David Hartley which were cut from the film, except for one used during the end credits roll. This is disappointing, as that music would have made the film better, even if only used as background music (since this isn’t a musical, in the strictest sense).
The animation was a decent quality, and I especially loved the background art. The stylistic scene and character designs very much incorporated Incan influences. Nothing in the animation stood out as a step forward or pushing the boundaries of animation frontiers. The Emperor’s New Groove really felt like a B-team effort from Walt Disney.
Even with the problems, I enjoyed the film. It is definitely fun for kids, though there are a few scary scenes which might frighten the really young crowd. If you haven’t seen it, go see it (or rent it, or borrow it). As my friend kept insisting, it really was a fun film.
Release Date: December 15, 2000
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (potions)
Violence: 0 (slapstick, some peril, attempted murder)