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Emperorís New Groove, The (New Groove Edition) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 18 October 2005

The Emperor’s New Groove

Walt Disney Pictures/Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: G
starring (voices): David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton, Wendie Malick, Kellyann Kelso, Eli Russell Linnetz, Tom Jones.
Theatrical release: 2000
DVD release (this "new groove edition"): 2005
film rating: Three-and-a-half Stars
sound/picture rating: Four-and-a-half Stars
reviewed by: Bill Warren

This is a second-tier Disney cartoon feature, not one of their major efforts, but it’s often very funny. It’s more in the style of the great Warner Bros. shorts of the 1940s and early 50s than in the Disney tradition, with lots of quick, wry gags that depend on razor-sharp timing. It seemed to come and go in theaters rather quickly, but was popular enough to generate a made-for-video sequel, “Kronk’s New Groove.”

The movie underwent enormous changes during production, beginning as a tale of a kidnapped Inca princess, winding up the story of a spoiled Inca emperor, Kuzco (voice of David Spade), who is transformed into a llama. He has to rely on burly peasant Pacha (John Goodman) to regain human form and to wrest his empire from the control of the evil schemer Yzma (Eartha Kitt) who turned him into a beast of burden.

The title seems peculiarly dated—who ever talks about being in a groove these days?—but the movie itself is up-to-the-minute witty, often shameless in its treatment of gags. At the end, as one of the characters is falling down the front of Kuzco’s temple, we see a guard telling a deliveryman, “for the last time, we did not order a giant trampoline”—and of course, the falling character shows what a trampoline is for.

There’s a minor irritation throughout the film, like a strawberry seed stuck in a tooth, and that’s David Spade. He’s a good second banana, but as a lead character, his arch, snide delivery can get very wearisome very rapidly. And that’s what happens here. You keep wishing you could slap Kuzco, or that the movie would simply drop him for a while. But no, there he is, all the way through. It’s more annoying because we know exactly the arc his story will take: he will eventually wise up and realize he’s been a jerk. It’s too bad the realization doesn’t come earlier.

Still, the movie can be a lot of fun here and there, now and then. It’s solidly grounded by John Goodman’s warm voice; he’s the antidote for Spade. And it’s also helped by Eartha Kitt’s lively, screechy voice of the spindly, blue Yzma, one of Disney’s more inept wicked sorceresses. Her henchman is naïve muscleman Kronk, entertainingly voiced by Patrick Warburton. Still, THIS guy gets the sequel?

Gags of all sorts gallop trhough the movie. Kronk occasionally develops the standard devil-conscience on one shoulder, angel-conscience on the other—who seem to be living in their own little movie, as it doesn’t relate to “The Emperor’s New Groove.” A fly in a web screams “help meeee!”, a reference to “The Fly” of 1958. Yzma is turned into a lavender kitten. Pacha’s wife—who’s visibly pregnant, an animation first—is given sardonic voice by Wendie Malick. Their two kids are especially realistic for animated characters—realistic in behavior, that is, as they’re in the same angular-and-rounded art style of the rest of the movie.

The commentary track by a small crowd is hosted by producer Randy Fullmer and director Mark Dindal. There are contributions by art director Colin Stimpson, character designer Joseph C. Mosher, story head Stephen Anderson and others. But it’s overall somewhat limp, and can be ignored.

Perhaps if “The Emperor’s New Groove” had been the movie they wanted to make all along it would have been more satisfying. It’s certainly peculiar—a Disney cartoon about an Incan emperor? How come? It’s loosely organized, being mostly a journey through attractive, simplistic designs. But it’s also occasionally very funny; it’s never quite satisfying, but you won’t regret watching it.

more details
sound format: DTS 5.1 digital surround sound; also Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks
aspect ratio: widescreen 1.66:1 (16X9 enhanced)
special features: commentary track by producer Randy Fullmer, director Mark Dindal, art director Colin Stimpson, character designer Joseph C. Mosher, head of story Stephen Anderson, supervising animator of Kuzco Nik Ranieri, supervising animator Bruce W. Smith. “Extra gravy”—bonus features. Destructio of Pacha’s villages, sketches of the village, the original Kuzcotopia ending, a game, two videos, and a making-of documentary
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 36-inch Sony XBR

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