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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 33.75%
Average: 11.25%
Pretty Bad: 2.5%
Total Crap: 3.75%

5 reviews, 50 user ratings

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Emperor's New Groove, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"Kid Movie...Shmid Movie. This one's got laughs!"
4 stars

Prior to seeing The Emperor's New Groove, I'd have said that Aladdin was Disney's funniest animated feature, but I suppose I'd be better off praising Robin Williams than Disney itself for the laughs in that one. Of course, most of Disney's 'cartoons' have more than their share of 'comic relief' characters, but I wouldn't classify any of them as 'comedies'. Until now!

The Disney company presents a particularly sharp double-edged sword for the honest movie critic. On one hand, Disney has given the world some of the greatest moments in animated cinema (The Lion King, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and Dumbo come to mind and that's only three of them!). On the other hand, the Disney machine has cranked out far more than it's share of safe, test-marketed swill also, relying solely on their instantly recognizable name to turn a profit. (In this case, I'm thinking of the insulting Pocahontas, many of their dreadful live action movies in the Inspector Gadget vein, or ANY of their direct-to-video sequels.)

The Emperor's New Groove was originally intended to be another of Disney's 'adventure epics', complete with talking animals and the requisite musical numbers (all of which had already been recorded by Sting). But once the Disney brass took a look at Kingdom of the Sun (the original title), they were not happy with the film. After stating that 'Kingdom' would not stand up well alongside their other classics (and Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame somehow do?), they scrapped huge portions of the project and decided to go with a straight slapstick comedy.

While I'm not one to praise studio executives too often, it's safe to say that they made the right choice this time around, because the final result is one damn funny movie. With the musical numbers missing, Groove clocks in at under 80 minutes long, which results in a quick and well-paced movie. Luckily for the suits over at Disney, the comedy angle works like a charm, thanks mainly to a great voice cast and the movie's rapid-fire punchlines.

David Spade plays Kuzco, a spoiled and selfish Emperor who gets transformed into a llama by his estranged advisor Yzma (played with a nasty flair by Eartha Kitt), whom he has recently (and quite rudely) fired. After escaping the city, Kuzco teams up with a friendly peasant named Pacha (John Goodman) and they begin their adventure back to the palace to make the Emperor a human again. Sounds like your typical Disney fare, right?


What does it say about the state of American Movies when a "kid's" movie like The Emperor's New Groove has more laughs in it than What Women Want, The Family Man and Dude, Where's My Car? combined? That's right folks! If you're looking for a good comedy this winter, you can skip anything starring human actors and head directly for the Disney cartoon about a talking llama.

While the animation has the Disney trademark excellence, the real highlight of The Emperor's New Groove is the wacky screenplay by David Reynolds. This guy must have been watching some Bugs Bunny cartoons when he wrote this one, because Emperor is full of crazy cartoon violence, self-referential asides to the audience, and our hero even gets to dress up like an ugly woman! (One of Bugs' finest bits, if you asked me.) The overly-familiar adventure story is turned on its head throughout, as the plot intermittently stops in its tracks, all for a silly punch line.

The only real complaint (and it's one that gives a glimpse into the film's patchwork construction) is Spade's ongoing narration. It's there to keep the plot threads tied together, but the narration is entirely unnecessary. It's a minor nitpick, as kids won't even notice it and adults won't really care.

As Kuzco, Spade basically plays himself. His cocky and caustic performance works perfectly with his character though, so there's no problem there. John Goodman is as pleasant as always, even if it is just his voice. Wendie Malick has some fun in a small role as Pacha's wife and Eartha Kitt chews into the villain's role with all the enthusiasm you'd expect from her, only instilled with a sense of humor you probably wouldn't. But Patrick Warburton simply steals the movie as Yzma's slow-but-awful nice henchman, Kronk. Part of it may be that Kronk gets all the best lines, but Warburton (Putty of Seinfeld fame) brings a sarcastic weariness to the role that is simply fantastic.

I would say that it's nice to see the Disney conglomerate lightening up a bit with their latest effort. But since this whole project was borne from a list of failures and mistakes, I'm guessing Disney won't be specializing in any more 'wacky comedy cartoons' any time soon. More likely that Emperor was an aberration in Disney's history (much like 1985's underrated The Black Cauldron was), which is a shame because I'd take two dozen solid laughs over a half-dozen sappy musical numbers any day. But as any Disney executive worth his salt will contend, you don't sell ten million Lion King soundtracks by being funny.

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originally posted: 01/03/01 11:51:58
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User Comments

10/05/13 KingNeutron Despite prod problems, Great for a laugh; very rewatchable. Spade/Warburton/Kitt nailed it. 5 stars
10/20/11 Magic A conflicted production results in one of Disney's funniest movies ever. Kronk alone, whoa. 4 stars
2/20/11 Ark Hilarious! Once in a while Disney screws up and gives us something good! 5 stars
2/14/11 Quigley The funniest movie ever made; no joke. This film is criminally underrated. Ten stars! 5 stars
8/30/09 CTT Warburton and Kitt steal the film; hilarious stuff 5 stars
12/11/08 Dominic YZMA looks like LADY TREMAINE,MALIFICENT and URSULA. 5 stars
11/01/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 5 stars
9/02/06 Chad Thomas One of the funniest animated movies ever! 5 stars
8/19/06 Beau All-time fav disney movie, very comimcal and entertaining, not just for kids!!!! 5 stars
7/12/06 David Cohen This is what happens when commedies try to be hip instead of funny 3 stars
5/23/06 Ashley Hinz I hated it, just a waste of time. 1 stars
4/26/06 timoth1212 AWESOME COOL SWEET AND ALL THE OTHER NAMES MEANING REALLY GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer They turned their "Kingdom of the Sun" project into this... AND I LOVE IT! BOO-YAH!!!! 5 stars
8/30/05 ES Laughter but no redeeming qualities, not as bad as Mulan 3 stars
7/03/05 Quigley Totally funny. what do you people have against this anyway? disney got it right this time! 5 stars
1/28/05 Jack Scallops Worth the $3.50 5 stars
1/16/05 conor the great hilarious... why doesn't Disney do more like this? 4 stars
7/24/04 Sarah If only Disney would make them all like this! 5 stars
7/18/04 Nate It's good to see Disney trying something new 5 stars
5/20/04 John Disney has sunk to this?! 1 stars
5/13/04 Sean Scanlan close, but no Doug's First Movie 4 stars
5/11/04 J.Peckerfoot Great fun for all the fuckin family.Thankyou Kronk! 5 stars
4/29/04 merv someone needs to lay off the crack! 5 stars
11/28/03 Samuel A very funny cartoon, Spade is awesome!! 5 stars
8/30/02 Interrog8 KRONK! Need I say more? 5 stars
8/05/02 LessThanColleen Okay, I'm almost 15 and this was great! Love Kronk! (Reason #2, look what I can do) lol 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Loved it! How wonderful to hear Eartha's gravelly voice. 5 stars
1/02/02 Andrew Carden I Liked Land Before Time #6 Better Then This. 1 stars
12/16/01 Jeremy I laughed but I didnt piss my pants and it was funny (very) 5 stars
9/30/01 daniboy best disney movie in years. laughed my ass off 5 stars
7/01/01 ALEXIS Hey I'm also 15 and this is one of my favorite movies!! it kicks ass, so does David Spade! 5 stars
6/29/01 Geebo I'm also 15, and okay Kronk. Kronk ruled. He was awesome, Nothing can compare. 5 stars
6/01/01 Melody Gordon Ths movie is awsome!!! I'm 15 and I love to watc it all the time!!!! 5 stars
5/18/01 Wendy Gayle Walkup-Barry I loved it!!!! So did my daughter :) 5 stars
4/07/01 viking Well, at least it's an original idea free of schmaltz !!! 4 stars
1/29/01 Mario Rodgers What a bunch of grouches. This movie was brilliant! Stop saying the animation was weak. 5 stars
1/16/01 bats surprised by the sharp writing and humor 4 stars
1/12/01 Gariess A cartoon is a cartoon. Why do we expect effects and animation to entertain us? leave it fo 2 stars
1/12/01 McArthur Student Simply one of disneys best! 5 stars
1/11/01 Who? Great movie, better than all disney movies since "Lion King", or maybe even more 5 stars
1/03/01 FrayLo Not bad, sure as hell more entertaining than sitting through "Dude, Where's My Car?" 4 stars
1/03/01 The Bomb 69 animation was weak and the beginning was slow but the last 20 minutes made up for it 4 stars
1/02/01 Tonka Lightweight and hilarious, especially the last 20 minutes. Eartha Kitt is the best villain 5 stars
12/29/00 Dippy Better than you think! 5 stars
12/24/00 Reverend Krule i'm sick of sittin' through disney shit 2 stars
12/19/00 orpy I was prepared to hate it; it was not bad!! 4 stars
12/16/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble New Groove? I wonder how many blacks worked on this film? None I'll bet. 3 stars
12/16/00 Paul Putman It was such a homage to Chuck Jones that I missed the Disney magic. 4 stars
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  15-Dec-2000 (G)
  DVD: 18-Oct-2005


  05-Apr-2001 (G)

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