The Emperor’s New Groove
Directed by Mark Dindal.
Starring the voices of David Spade, John Goodman, Ertha Kitt, Partick Warburton, and Wendie Malick.
I wanted to see this film like how you slow down for a train wreck. I had been reading stories on the Internet for months about how this was Disney’s most troubled production to date. Let me give you the Coles Notes version: having started production in 1996, it was going to be called Kingdom Of The Sun, and simply be a retelling of The Prince And The Pauper in a Mayan kingdom. The directors of The Lion King were writing and directing, and Sting was hired on to write songs for it. But, in 1998, after test screenings, no one was liking this film. Tensions were running high at Disney studios. The Lion King directors were fired, and Mark Dindal was brought in and given two weeks to salvage the film. Half the work was scrapped. Voices were recast. Sting’s songs were dropped, with only one surviving to be the theme song. The movie’s mood shifted from drama to comedy. And the name was changed. So long Kingdom Of The Sun, hello The Emperor’s New Groove. Yup, Disney’s train wreck.
Taking place in a vaugly South American kingdom, we meet up with Emperor Kuzko (voice of Spade). As rulers go, he is truly one selfish brat. One day, he summons humble peasant Pacha (Goodman) to the palace. It seems that the Emperor wants to level Pacha’s village and build a summer home. This doesn’t sit will with Pacha, but he don’t dare question the emperor. Meanwhile, Kuzko recently fired his cheif advisor, Yzma (Kitt), because she was power-hungry and attempting to overthrow him. Her firing just makes her even more bitter, and she vows to poison Kuzko and take over the kingdom. But, her somewhat-dimwitted sidekick Kronk (Warburton), feeds Kuzko the wrong toxin, and Kuzko turns into a llama. Kronk tries to dispose of llama Kuzko, but accidently dumps him on Pacha’s cart, and Pacha takes the emperor home with him. Realizing that Pacha is his only hope, Kuzko and Pacha team up to get the emperor back to the palace and turn him back into his old self. Yzma, however, soon discovers that Kronk wasn’t successful in killing Kuzko, and soon she and Kronk are trekking all over the country side, looking for a talking llama. Can Pacha and Kuzko get back to the palace and restore Kuzko to normal before Yzma tracks them down? Can Kuzko learn a little humility and selflessness along the way? Hey, it’s Disney. What do you think?
You’ve all seen Adam Sandler movies, right? They’re all written by and starring Sandler, so his unique brand of humour shines through. Well, this film comes across like Disney asked David Spade to do a David Spade movie, and then they animated it. Spade’s Kuzko comes across a lot like Robin Williams’ Genie in Aladdin; the performer doesn’t really act, but just acts normal, and they animate it. But, I kinda like David Spade, so that didn’t bother me that much. Kronk is also a very lovable idiot. And, about halfway through the film, it just degenerates into an old Looney Tunes cartoon. It’s like Disney gave up all hope on this movie, and just went for broke trying to make it as funny as possible. And it is funny. Oh, and I have to give kudos to actress Wendie Malick. She voices my favourite character in the film, Pacha’s very spirited, and very pregnant, wife. I just wanted to see a whole film about Pacha’s family because I loved her so much. This film was a lot better than I expected. All in all, it’s no timeless classic, but you’ll laugh.
One final note. As you all know, I like to sit through right to the end of the end credits. This was the first time ever that I saw greater than 100 names in the “Special Thanks To…” section. I wonder if those are all the poor folks whose work got scrapped?