“The Emperor’s New Groove” is an oddity of the Disney canon. The film is completely entertaining but lacks the storyline and character development of the beloved Disney classics. This film was a production mess and it shows in the story’s complete lack of direction. The initial concept of this film (when it was going to be called “Kingdom of the Sun”) was supposed to amount to a musical epic of Lion King proportions; instead, we are left with an unimpressive journey whose jokes are distracting and often used to draw our attention away from the (lack of) plot. Examples include: Kuzco’s narration that interrupts the flow of the story in order to cross out characters with whiteboard markers, Kuzco (the character) arguing with Kuzco (the narrator), Pacha’s sitcom family, and an old man whose only purpose is to be thrown out of a window. While the jokes are funny, they are only included because the story is not strong enough to be funny in its own rite. This is a shame because this cast of voice actors is outstanding. Patrick Warburton creates one of the funniest animated performances of all time as Kronk. I will continue to watch this film over and over just for him. His timing is perfection and, while much of Kronk’s humor is used to give the audience something memorable in lieu of a strong plot, you simply have to love his self-created theme music and interest in cooking. David Spade’s voice is ideal for the bratty Kuzco and you really can’t go wrong with John Goodman. I also love that the directors gave nods to a few Hollywood stars of yesteryear with Eartha Kitt as Yzma, Tom Jones as the Theme Song Guy, and John Fiedler (Piglet) in a cameo as the old man. In the end, this is all overshadowed by the production issues and the new non-musical direction of Disney. “Tarzan” began the trend with its musical sequences playing in the background instead of being sung by the characters, but this film eliminated the musical sequences completely. “The Emperor’s New Groove” is full of entertaining moments and slapstick jokes but, with a plot that goes nowhere and a main character that is intentionally dis-likable, it lacks the magic that we have come to expect from Disney animated films.
[Pictured: Kronk, the real reason to watch this film]