Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Seventy-two - The Emperor's New Groove, "Kronk, your antics make life worth living sometimes."

When The Emperor's New Groove came out, I remember a lot of folks lambasting it as just another example of the decline of Disney's animation studio from its heyday in the late 80's/early 90's after the Second Renaissance that included The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. Maybe it was a hostility towards all the fourth wall breaking, or just David Spade in particular... or, perhaps, it was just the general lack of awe-inspiring visuals or catchy musical sequences.

In any case, The Emperor's New Groove was a break from Disney's typical routine and, for that, got a lot of criticism. Personally, though, while I can see the validity of their complaints, there's just this bouncy humor that pervades the entirety of the film that really, really makes me happy... mostly coming at the hands of Chaotic Neutral henchmen, Kronk (Patrick Warburton).

That's not to say that David Spade, the intended star of the show as the Emperor Kuzco, isn't funny... but there are times that his self-absorbed sarcasm rubs the wrong way, whereas pretty much everything that comes out of Kronk's mouth (or, from his kitchen) is delicious.

While co-star John Goodman never really distinguishes himself as a voice actor here, playing the goody two-shoes Pacha (I think Wendi Malick does a much more interesting turn as his wife, Chicha), Eartha Kitt actually does a bangup job as the villainous Yzma, a wretched crone of an enchantress with eyes on the throne. It's actually rather sad that they didn't have her do a musical number as her voice just screams sultry and wicked.

As far as the story goes, it's just your typical buddy/chase flick as Kuzco and Pacha try and get back to civilization whilst bonding with each other and trying to avoid/thwart Yzma and Kronk. No real big surprise there. I was actually hoping that, in the absence of BOTH Kuzco and Yzma, that the people of the empire would attempt some sort of "majority rule" collective, but nope... civilization operates normally while the dueling heads of state, well, duel.

It's weird, The Emperor's New Groove really doesn't have your standard Disney polish and signaled a temporary halt to the trope of every entry being a romantic musical (a halt which led directly to the pulp adventure Atlantis: The Lost Empire), but it also wasn't "nails on the chalkboard" bad like the straight-to-DVD features that Disney was pumping out in the 90's, either. It's quaint and mostly fun... just not a grand Disney Epic, like most folks were used to back then.

I particularly loved (along with Kronk) all the tiny jokes like the Jaguar cub, the rollercoaster voice over, and the map lines... but really, the star of the show was Kronk. I don't think that the movie would've survived without his offbeat humor (and metahumor). Whether it was his obsessive homemaking, arguing with his dueling consciences, or squirrel translation, Patrick Warburton created a character that transcending the possible mediocrity of the film.

The main draw was him... everything else was just a supporting bonus. I mean, they turned Earth Kitt into a freaking cat and didn't even have her purr! Sacrilege!

I can definitely recommend The Emperor's New Groove, just be advised that it's all about the humor... the story, art, and music are all just meh.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

1 comment:

  1. RE: Eartha Kitt singing, The movie was originally called "Kingdom of the Sun" and part of the plot involved Yzma wanting to capture the sun to maintain her youth forever (because the sun gives her wrinkles) and was accompanied by this song:

    It was removed when the plot changed.