To be honest, it did not bother me. I was the only person at the movie theater over the age of 10 who was not accompanied by an adult or accompanying someone under the age of 10. But that's cool, because I do like Disney's full-length animated features, yes indeed.
That's not to say I like all of them. Pocahontas
was an embarrassment and last summer's epic Dinosaurs
(was that even animated? I am not sure computer art necessarily counts) lacked the heart of Disney's other creations. But, and this is a big but, at least those previously two flicks were well made. The animation was incredible; the production looked like someone cared deeply for the subject matter. They were -- if you forget about the bad stories and bad characters -- well-done films.
So what to make of Disney's mid-term effort, The Emperor's New Groove
? Unfortunately, not much. The story line revolves around one Emperor Kuzco (played sarcastically by David Spade) and his unfortunate transformation into -- of all things -- a llama. Why a llama? I guess the Disney focus groups figured that were llamas were all the rage this season. His only companion is village head and chief-llama herder Pancha, portly played by John Goodman. While I sincerely appreciate the Disney artists' interest and ability in portraying their voice-talent as new creations in drawing, did they really have to make Pancha grossly obese like Goodman? Just a question. The bad guys are former advisor to the emperor, Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her sidekick Kronk (Patrick Warburton).
My biggest problem with this film is that Disney cartoon flicks have generally balanced kid moments with adult moments. While there is usually a lot of funny stuff, there is also plenty of serious stuff as well. Spade is by definition incapable of any sort of depth in his performance, relying solely on a single-sided, arrogant, and typically half-assed performance. Yeah, he's funny, but the act got old during Saturday Night Live
Spade even finds ways to distract the audience from the rest of the story. Providing voice-over (to create a singularly confusing narrative) from the start, Spade forces himself on the viewers, even at the most inappropriate moments. For example, the young pre-llama Kuzco wants to demolish poor Pancha's village for a swimming pool. After the film makes pains to show how much Pancha loves his home, Spades character literally stops the show to explain how the real focus should be -- of course, on Kuzco and not on the concerns of Pancha. Director Mark Dindal should have recognized a good scene and left it alone. Instead, Dindal sacrifices the good scenes for cheap laughs.
That's a recurring problem. The Emperor's New Groove
relies almost entirely from tried and true gimmicks for humor. Grant it, Kronk in the kitchen provides very funny moments, but at other times even the visual humor (a trademark of Disney films) seems forced and clich. At one moment, there is even a recreation of a famous Spaceballs
moment with Yzma swinging out a statue's nostril via a curtain.
Why this movie is not a straight-to-video release probably has something to do with the voice talent and their price tags. To be fair, Spade and Goodman do have good chemistry and are more funny than not. I smiled through most of the film and was only vaguely aware of how disappointing this effort was overall, which I guess is a good thing. If you want a movie that is light and superficial as its main character who unabashedly proclaims "It's All About... ME!" then enjoy this film. If you would rather watch a better idea of what Disney filmmakers are capable of, watch any of the other full-length animated features.