Kingdom of the Sun

The Emperor’s New Groove – Hey, we’re back into the Disney…well, groove, I suppose. This film was released in December 2000, and I remember when Beth saw a preview and thought it was trying too hard to be nineties-cool. It features David Spade as…well, himself, more or less. Okay, his character is actually the selfish and sarcastic young Incan Emperor Kuzco, who was named after a city.

While the film is about his learning to be less self-centered, much of it is him making nineties-style jokes and references. Booyah! The thing is, the movie was originally planned to be an epic musical adventure containing a love story, a plot to steal the sun, and a Prince and the Pauper subplot involving Kuzco switching places with a peasant. Due to a troubled production, it was eventually scaled down considerably, and the songs cut out entirely. What we ended up with was a slapstick buddy comedy that didn’t really make much use of its South American setting other than the architectural and clothing styles and the presence of llamas. At one point, they made a piñata joke, even though those wouldn’t have existed in the area until after the arrival of the Spanish, and even then were really associated with Mexico. Some of the anachronistic jokes worked, but others just seemed a bit desperate. One thing I can say for the film is that it has a pretty original plot. When Kuzco fires his adviser Yzma, she tries to poison him, but she and her assistant Kronk accidentally use a potion that turns him into a llama instead. Yzma is a creepy-looking and deranged old witch voiced by Eartha Kitt, and Kronk a bit slow-witted but talented in his way. His voice is typical Patrick Warburton, which isn’t a bad thing.

Kuzco ends up with a peasant named Pacha, whose home the Emperor wanted to destroy in order to construct a summer palace, and the two end up bonding on the way back to the capital.

Pretty simple, but hardly derivative. It’s quite heavy on meta-humor, to point where Kuzco even argues with the version of himself who’s narrating. As with most aspects of the film, the animation is on the goofy side as well, especially with but certainly not limited to the Kuzco llama. I found the ending, where the Emperor drinks a bunch of different transformation potions, to be somewhat reminiscent of the wizards’ duel from The Sword in the Stone.

I think it tries a little too hard with the humor, and not hard enough in some other respects. Still, it’s cute enough, and parts of it were funny. It’s just not one of Disney’s better efforts, and as far as the zanier Disney movies from the era, doesn’t measure up to Aladdin or even Hercules.

This entry was posted in Cartoons, Humor, Revisiting Disney, VoVat Goes to the Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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