The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

Rates: * * * 1/2

Why Did I Watch It? Catching up on the Disney movies of the rough period 1995 – 2005, none of which I have seen before.

Cast, crew, etc

Kuzco is the peak Incan Emperor; ruling over a vast kingdom he is wealthy, all powerful…. and a total jerk. He’s so bad he wants to flatten an entire idyllic village to make way for a holiday house. Luckily, his wicked advisor is on hand to turn him into a talking llama.

This short, manic, very funny and fast paced feature takes a bunch of classic Disney tropes, and mashes them together with a Looney Tunes sensibility; Kuzco’s nemisis, Yzma, looks like something straight out of a Chuck Jones short.

The backgrounds are colourfully wild; Yzma’s lab and the exterior of the Emperor’s palace are hyper stylised and fill the screen with slabs of neon purple and pink, yellow and green. And the animation in the set pieces flashes like lightning; the final chase/fight over Yzma’s collection of magic potions, with a group of soldiers who have been turned into cute animals but are still determined to do their duty, is not just the best thing in the movie, but one of the best things EVER.

The voices actors are well cast, and this may also be the best thing David Spade has ever done; his trashbag smart alek schtick doesn’t really do it for me, but he is perfect here. I mean: he is meant to be annoying! A role he was born to play. John Gooodman (nice guy peasant), Puddy from Seinfeld (dim wit guard), and Eartha Kitt (Yzma herself) are all excellent choices, and tackle their parts with relish.

And some of the cutaway gags and random nonsense is truly inspired; my faves are the cute squirrel who turns the tables, Goodman’s reaction to the spider eating the bug, Kuzco interrupting the film to go ‘this is a story about ME’, and Yzma’s original plan to get rid of the emperor (‘I turn him into a flea, THEN put the flea in a box…’).

The story is nothing you haven’t seen a million times, but the slapdash vibe is infectious. A riot.

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