The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

Before Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) can build his swimming pool (complete with waterslide), he must first determine which mountain top ‘sings’. Gleaning the answer from humble villager Pacha (John Goodman), Kuzco reveals his plans to decimate the man’s house in order to make room for Kuzcotopia. Accidentally turned into a llama at dinner by scheming advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt), Kuzco is carried out of the city by her sidekick, who has been instructed to kill him. Talked out of committing murder by his shoulder angel, Kronk (Patrick Warburton) instead loses Kuzco in the throng of the local market. Rescued by Pacha, the two must form a makeshift alliance in order to return Kuzco to his human form; Pacha taking the oppertunity to talk the Emperor out of building his water park. Having discovered Kuzco’s whereabouts from a talking squirrel, however, Yzma will do anything and everything to keep Kuzco off the throne.

From a studio renowned for its earnestness – where princes are always charming and in order to realise your dreams all you must do is wish upon a star – the occasional exception is always a welcome thing. Refreshingly for a mainstream Disney release, The Emperor’s New Groove refuses to take itself seriously or pander to Disneyland’s usual patrons. The film is instead populated by characters who run amok, only ever serving the plot only when it suits them — after desert…and coffee, for example.

Opening with a retrospective voice-over which layers on the sarcasm thick and fast, The Emperor’s New Groove wastes no time in establishing its desired tone. An inanely random buddy comedy, the film’s odd couple leads are almost immediately in conflict with one another. The set-up is incredibly simple, allowing more time to be spent on the characters and comedy. Kuzco is delightfully selfish, his narration only serving to emphasise his wonderfully spoilt, abrasive nature as he provides a meta-commentary for the narrative, ensuring that the focus is always where it belongs: on him. That said, he is a compelling presence who gives the film a winning irreverence as he is forced to interact with his subordinates.

While Kuzco inevitably learns the error of his egocentric ways, the directors have peppered the narrative with enough insanity to offset the studio’s token family values, embodied here by friendly-giant Pacha. The film’s secret weapon is its resident evil – on this occasion a frustrated mad scientist who must manipulate her incompetent sidekick if she is ever going to win the throne – a character so endearingly sympathetic that this is almost the villain’s movie. Animated with an impressive likeness to the late actress Eartha Kitt, Yzma is quite simply a revelation.

Without the hindrance of lovable idiot Kronk, however, Yzma would be an uninterestingly content picture of success having conquered the kingdom years earlier. Patrick Warburton’s heavy tones are an endless source of hilarity, the script spoon-feeding Kronk an unceasing stream of one liners and random observations. As he complete’s his own journey from sidekick to Junior Chipmunk instructor, he is immortalised as one of the studio’s best ever creations.

That we’ve got this far without once mentioning the animation itself really is refreshing. Sneaking into cinema’s before each new release had to push some sort of boundary, The Emperor’s New Groove is as basic as they come. This is not a criticism, however, with the animation proving almost as superfluous as the plot itself. Each character is well drawn and each joke punctuated by some perfectly timed visual gag, however the images exist only to serve the characters and therefore rarely have reason to draw attention to themselves. You aren’t admiring the billowing grass or cloud formations when you should be having fun.

A surprisingly self-aware assault on the funny bone, The Emperor’s New Groove is a lovably silly assault of witty dialogue and gleeful gags, invoking closer comparisons to Bugs Bunny than Mickey Mouse. Boasting a plot which, at its character’s own admission, doesn’t make any sense, the film’s winning direction and wonderfully realised ensemble keep the laughter coming at such an impressive rate that you won’t even notice. From Yzma to Kronk, Kuzco to Pacha, the talking squirrel to Tom Jones’ Theme Song Guy, The Emperor’s New Groove is surrealist character comedy at its best.

5-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

  1. Nostra says:

    It really is an excellent Disney movie, which a lot of people don’t seem to know. It wasn’t your standard Disney movie. I loved it, it was very funny.

  2. Pingback: Six Fads That Are Arguably Stunting Cinema « popcornaddict

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