If Disney has taught any kind of lesson about making cute animated films about historical events, it is that we should simply not make them at all. Inaccuracies aside, a cartoon that takes a cheerful look at the European colonization of the America's is looking for trouble.
The Road to El Dorado opens up in 15th century Spain where two street punks become accidental stow aways on a ship bound for Cuba. The captain of the ship is the nasty Captain Cortez, and when he finds them he orders them to be flogged and then kept prisoner to be sold as indentured servants when they arrive in Cuba.
Our two grifters, Miguel and Tulio, escape with the Captains prized horse in tow, and end up one step ahead of their captor, on the island with the fabled City of Gold. They search out the city, find it, and then try to swindle the villagers who see the pair as gods.
I honestly believe that this film should be judged on two levels. We should be looking at the animation, which is incredible, however, we should also be looking at the story, which, I hate to say, has a profound effect on how I feel about the movie as a whole.
Dreamworks produced this picture, and there is no doubt that they have managed to achieve the level of animation that Disney, the kingpin of all cartoon factories, has made famous, but they still have several lessons to learn.
The story is not only banal, it is slow moving and anti-climactic, the good versus evil thing seems to fizzle out. Our heroes are almost as bankrupt morally, as our villains, and they never quite learn their lesson in the end. The Road to El Dorado has a couple of cuddly critters, yet neither manage to tug at my heart strings. The horse, who was crusty when owned by the ruthless captain, becomes a loyal, if not temperamental ally. And then there is this possum who somehow decides to go along for the ride.
Elton John writes and sings the music attached to this film and I hate to say it, but its awful. I won't be looking for him to sing any of these lifeless tunes at next years Oscars.
And then there is the gay sub-text. Oh yes, if you look carefully ... if you really want to see it, it's there. I forgot to mention that our grifters, with swishy voices provided by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branaugh, are toned, tanned and maned to the hilt. The scandal surrounding this film is the hot tub scene, where the boys eagerly rush naked into the steamy water. In reality it should be no big deal, but if that sells tickets, then who am I to argue.
Personally, I would suggest passing on The Road to El Dorado, only because of the lousy story. I would not suggest it for children, only because I doubt they would be interested. On the other hand, high praise to the animators, and my fingers are crossed in hopes that they be given a decent script for their next big venture.
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