The emperor is a bad man, but after he’s transformed into a llama, he learns how to be a good emperor in the 2000 Walt Disney Animation Studios picture, “The Emperor’s New Groove.” Kuzco plans to build a pool on Pacha’s land, but when he fires his adviser, Yzma, she tries to kill him. But a mistake by her assistant Kronk leads to Kuzco being turned into a llama and accidentally going home with Pacha. From there, Kuzco learns how to be good and to be a good friend to Pacha, while Kronk gets tired of Yzma and ends up siding with Kuzco.
This is one of the funnier Disney films. It’s set right in the middle of Disney’s Experimental Age of Animation, but it doesn’t doo much when it comes to experimenting. It moved away from the musicals of the Renaissance, but the story is still very similar to the formula from the Renaissance. It doesn’t try a new style of animation like “Dinosaur,” “Treasure Planet,” or “Chicken Little.” It doesn’t deviate from the traditional formula like “Meet the Robinsons” or “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.” But, it’s still one of the best films from this era because it knows what it does well and accentuates that.
This film is really carried by the strength of its vocal cast. David Spade is perfectly fine. He hits the part of a self-absorbed emperor well. But, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton are where the film thrives. Goodman plays Pacha with a sense of vulnerability that it’s impossible not to root for him. Eartha Kill is delightfully devilish as Yzma. If it weren’t for Pacha, it would be incredibly easy to root for Yzma over Kuzco. And Patrick Warburton plays Kronk in such a lovable, oafish way that you can’t wait for him to turn on Yzma even if you can see it coming a mile away.
Is this the best film of Disney’s Experimental Age? Some may say yes, but I don’t think so. I still have that spot reserved for “Bolt.” We’ve already discussed how this did very little when it comes to being experimental. It’s really a film out of place. If it had been made a few years earlier, it would’ve had a great musical feel and fit right in with the Renaissance. If it had been made about 10 to 15 years later, it would have the Disney Revival feel after many of the experiments of the Experimental Age had worked out the kinks. This is a solid film that provide a bright spot during a dark time in Disney’s history and that’s not a bad thing.
Ranking: 3.5 stars
What did you think of “The Emperor’s New Groove?”