In this animated comedy from the folks at Disney, the vain and cocky Emperor Kuzco is a very busy man. Besides maintaining his "groove", and firing his suspicious administrator, Yzma; he's also planning to build a new waterpark just for himself for his birthday. However, this means destroying one of the villages in his kingdom. Meanwhile, Yzma is hatching a plan to get revenge and usurp the throne. But, in a botched assassination courtesy of Yzma's right-hand man, Kronk, Kuzco is magically transformed into a llama. Now, Kuzco finds himself the property of Pacha, a lowly llama herder whose home is ground zero for the water park. Upon discovering the llama's true self, Pacha offers to help resolve the Emperor's problem and regain his throne, only if he promises to move his water park. Written by
Hard to see why it wasn't a wildly popular mega-hit - I have two theories, one charitable, one not. The charitable theory is that people were put off by the title. MY heart certainly sank when I heard it. I mean, just say it out loud - "The Emperor's New Groove" - now how could a good movie POSSIBLY have a title like that?
Yet now, I rather like the title. It fits the story; it doesn't care if it's fashionable or not; it's just so pleasingly RIGHT - but in an almost indescribable way you'll have to watch the film to find out. Maybe it WAS a marketing mistake. Who cares? I never took seriously the charge that Disney's artistic decisions were made by its marketing department, anyway.
That was the charitable explanation for why it made considerably less, inflation adjusted, than every other one of Disney's animated features from "Beauty and the Beast" on, and failed to even get nominated for a "Best Picture" Oscar in a year in which they had difficulty coming up with half-plausible candidates. The uncharitable explanation is probably closer to the truth. People are idiots. This is a classic - but it's also animated - by pencil on paper rather than finger on keyboard - so who will ever notice?
Doubt me? You won't once you've seen it. Everyone to speak of who did reports that it's very, very funny, and they're right - and trust me, nothing is ever THIS funny unless it's clever and witty as well. It goes without saying that their character animation is unmatched in its brilliance and ... I've already used the words "humour" and "wit"? Well, I'll use them again. In addition there's a charming dottiness that a merely hip film could never quite capture. Art direction is perfectly judged and consistent throughout, with a pleasing absence of because-we-can computer effects.
Here's just ONE example of what I'm talking about. One side of the emperor's palace consists of this HUGE golden face, and we find out in a funny scene (but they're all funny) that all excess water is drained out through the nostrils. But that's not all we see. We see characters crawling out of the nostrils, we see someone dangling like a big booger on a rope out of one of the nostrils - one snot gag after another - yet no explicit camerawork ever draws our attention to them. Not only do the characters deliver their lines perfectly deadpan, the camera delivers its images perfectly deadpan. It's just perfect.
Two more things I should mention. Unlike Disney's other recent features, it never, not even for a second, feels as though the story has been unduly compressed - and at 78 minutes it's a trifle shorter than most.
Also, despite the constant hilarity, it's rather touching.
No movie I've seen in the past six months has filled me with such joy. Well, perhaps there have been a few others, but they were all made long ago.
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