Movie #41 in the Disney Animated Marathon is groovy, no grooving, wait, nope, I’m sure it’s groovy, yep, that’s the ticket!
Screenplay By: David Reynolds
Directed By: Mark Dindal
As I watched The Emperor’s New Groove two thoughts immediately made their way into my cranium. The first was that The Emperor’s New Groove reminded me a lot of Hercules. The second was that The Emperor’s New Groove was structured a lot like a 1930’s madcap comedy. Those who know me know that the first is not a good thing, while the second could be a great thing. Before you get your panties in a bunch, both thoughts held true yet added together for quite the great movie watching experience. The Emperor’s New Groove combines elements of Hercules with the structure of a 1930’s madcap comedy to form perhaps the most unique Disney animated feature ever, as well as one of the best.
When I say that The Emperor’s New Groove reminded me of Hercules I am speaking of its fourth wall breaking and modern sensibilities in an ancient setting antics. Hercules failed miserably to pull these off, it never established one cohesive world. When the fourth wall was broken or when a modern pop culture reference was made it felt like the movie changed and turned into a different film altogether. The Emperor’s New Groove soars over this hurdle, fully integrating it’s main story with the fourth wall breaking and pop culture referencing elements. The Emperor’s New Groove makes us care about its characters while at the same time harboring some zany elements that should be out of place, but just aren’t. Oh, and it is funny, oh so funny.
When I think of 1930’s madcap comedies I think of characters talking fast and generally not making a lick of sense in the funniest of ways. The Emperor’s New Groove doesn’t go that far, in fact it changes things up a lot so that it is a much slower comedy. Yet, I couldn’t help but see the structure of a 1930’s madcap, or screwball, comedy being put into place. The adventures of Kuzco and Pacha are the type you would expect in a screwball buddy comedy. This is why The Emperor’s New Groove is such a unique Disney animated feature. They have done comedy before, they have done buddy films before, but never before have they done the two with a clear tip of their caps to the ideas put forth in such films as Monkey Business or Twentieth Century. But, even if you don’t agree with my structural interpretations of The Emperor’s New Groove, it is still a hilarious film, and that requires no interpretation whatsoever.
Besides the connections to Hercules and the comedic structure idea, The Emperor’s New Groove is a big bag of fun. I had a smile on my face the entire run time. The pacing kept me interested, the animation catches the eye, and the adventures of these characters were a lot of fun to take part in. Moreso than all of that, the work that the actors put in is nothing short of incredible. I believe some of that comes from a very well written script yes, but John Goodman falls right into the fatherly role, Eartha Kitt is shrill as shrill can be. The two standouts however are David Spade and Patrick Warburton. The role of Kuzco was made for Spade, it is deliciously whiny and arrogant and fits not only Spade’s personality but his voice to a T. Patrick Warburton continues to live in a realm of anonymity to those who are not big TV and film buffs. But, his work as Kronk is deadpan, funny, idiotic and sweet all at the same time. It’s no surprise that his turn as Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove led to him being cast as the eponymous lead in the TV series, The Tick.
I’m not quite sure how the rest of the world views The Emperor’s New Groove. I have seen it given high praise by a few but have noticed that when it comes to Disney animation it is largely ignored. Whether this is because it isn’t well liked or it’s just underrated I don’t know. What I can tell you is that I had a hell of a time with The Emperor’s New Groove. So much fun in fact that I watched it once with my girlfriend and then again the following morning by myself. Is this the beginning of the end of the great Disney animated run that began in the late 80’s-early 90’s? Maybe, I still have a few more films to go, but if what others say is true and the films to come after The Emperor’s New Groove will be of a lesser quality until Bolt comes along, then at least Disney gave us one more great film before losing their groove.