Groove me Baby!
In a shocking, bold and unprecedented move, Disney has released an animated 'classic' that has one song, no love interest, and doesn't star a young, orphaned boy or girl who is secretly the ruler of the kingdom.
It stars a llama. With an attitude.
True, the llama is the ruler of the kingdom, but it's no secret, everyone knows. And he's not orphaned- just incredibly selfish.
Still, Disney took a big chance with this pic, leaving the much-proven formula on the side of the road and trotting out into the wild blue yonder.
And it's absolutely hysterical.
The Emperor's New Groove is an odd, funny, bizarre, self-aware movie that is more fun than a handful of Mulans, Pocahontas or Dinosaurs. It is FUNNY. David Spade is the self-obsessed Emperor/Llama, Kuzco. The only love story in the film is Kuzco's love of himself. And there is no voice on the planet better at self-satisfied smugness than Spade.
Eartha Kitt's evil Yzma is delicious, although 'Eartha' is such a cool name they could have used that instead of 'Yzma'. She is fashionably evil, pure and simple. Doing his best to steal the show is Patrick Warburton as Kronk, Izma's beautiful but dim aide. He's a brute with a heart, a master chef, and was a Junior Chipmunk as a kid. John Goodman is surprisingly touching as the peasant with a heart.
Here's the story in a nutshell: Kuzco rules the kingdom. He's a jerk. His advisor, an evil woman named Yzma (Eartha Kitt) wants him dead, but accidentally turns him into a llama instead. Then Kuzco ends up with a gentle peasant (John Goodman) who agrees to return him to the palace to reclaim his throne - and maybe lose the llama digs while he's at it - and tries to teach him to be a nice person at the same time. Fat chance.
Here's what the story used to be. Some Incan or Mayan legend about a young prince who shoots a rope around the sun. It was gonna be called Kingdom of the Sun. It had six original songs by Sting; only one was actually used in this new version of the movie. Some of them currently play over the closing credits, which is sort of lame for Sting.
But here's the magic. Somewhere along the way, the director said "Nope. I don't want to make another dull 'meaningful' dramatic musical. Screw it. We're downing a bottle a Jim Beam and re-writing this baby." And Kingdom of the Sun became The Emperor's New Groove.
There is one musical number that survives. An opening mass celebration about how great Kuzco is, sung by Kuzco. He is all-powerful, all-important, all-everything. He Riverdances.
Avoiding the usual flaw in animated movies, this movie doesn't take itself seriously. There are a series of seemingly meaningless exchanges which are hilarious in their meaningless-ness. Eartha Kitt, standing in front of the entrance to her secret lair, tells Patrick Warburton to "Pull the Lever!" and then promptly falls into the crocodile moat, whereupon she climbs out with a crock attached to her ass and says "Why do we even have that lever? Pull the other one!"
I think that's a hoot. It's much better than the last movie with the word "Groove" in the title, that's for sure. If Stella could have found this groove, she might have made a decent flick, and a love scene between Angela Basset and a llama would have been awesome!
All things being equal, The Emperor's New Groove gets 4 Babylons. I'd give it more, but it's really, really short. Like really, really, really short. Like you know how Tarzan was 88 minutes long? That's Titanic-like compared to this one. Not that you feel cheated or anything, especially if you catch a half-price matinee, but at 72 minutes, it's barely longer than an episode of Dawson's Creek. So be warned. Not a flick to drop the kids off and run around shopping, unless you have them see it twice.
I am not Lore.
The Emperor's New Groove
Directed By: Mark Dindal
Starring: David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton and the magical, golden tones of Tom Jones! I'm not kidding. No Llamas were harmed in the making of this movie. But a few were frightened out of their wits.