Photos courtesy of
Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Come see the rest of Culturekiosque's Oscar 2001 Coverage!
SAN FRANCISCO, 13
February 2001 - Those up for more wit than warmth in their
animation - and parents looking for smarter fare than the Grinchflick
- should consider Disney's The Emperor's New Groove. In this
bit of whimsy, Kuzco (voiced by David Spade), a smug, self-absorbed,
casually cruel and mostly loathsome teenager, opens the film as
Emperor of all the Incas. He is, however, soon transformed into a
llama, of all things, in a botched assassination attempt by his witchy
advisor Yzma (the legendary Eartha Kitt), here purrfectly repellent)
and her side-of-beef boytoy, Kronk (Patrick Warburton). Cast, hooved
and fleecy, into the cold, cruel world, Kuzco falls in with
goodhearted peasant Pacha (John Goodman), who assists his sovereign's
attempts to return to his throne and his human form (despite Kuzco's
stated plan to bulldoze Pacha's village to make way for a new summer
palace). Learning of Kuzco's survival, Yzma sets off in pursuit, Kronk
If this conceit sounds a bit thin, well... it is.
This is lighter fare than most Disney classic revamps like Tarzan,
Hunchback, or Lion King. (Shakespeare, it ain't - but does
everything have to be Shakespeare?). And with a basically
unsympathetic main character, the usual maudlin attempts to pull the
heartstrings are kept to a minimum, and even sent up at various
points, plus or minus a few heartwarming scenes of peasant life (with
a maternal Wendie Malick as Pacha's wife ChiCha and their two adorable
rugrats). But, perhaps surprisingly, these factors work to the film's
Relieved of the duty of being heartwarming, the
film can focus on being geuinely clever if occasionally savage.
Splitting the character from whose perspective we get most of the
narration, Kuzco, from the figure one most identifies with, Pacha,
opens a space for an ironic, even sometimes cruel humor more Warner
Brothers than Disney. Even the occasional cute forest animals and
adorable peasant whelps have a nasty streak, though those it's turned
on mostly deserve it.
The writers thus have room to create a
script that's genuinely witty, and that more than compensates for the
insubstantial plot. Further still, at times the movie tosses out all
reason - a truly silly episode that has Kronk as short-order cook in
an Incan diner (Incan diner?) left audiences howling. Many of the
wisecracks and gags here will soar effortlessly over the kids' heads,
and the sight-gags and bits of physical comedy rush past almost too
fast even for the adult audience. Add to this clever musical numbers
composed by Sting (thankfully, only a couple of these), and the result
is a confection that will please adults - or those with a silly
streak, anyway - as much as the kids. Groove is thus a light,
tongue-in-cheek, treacle-free treat with a beat, perfect for those
with a cartoon craving.
Romero is a writer and engineer based in Silicon Valley. He is the
Nouveau editor of Culturekiosque.com.