The Emperor's New Groove (2000)

THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE-- and how aptly titled is *that*?-- might 
be *the* most non-Disney Disney 'toon ever, a hyperactive, hyper-
funny, aside-filled, anachronism-rich, non-musical, animated Incan 
road comedy slash David Spade snide-fest that owes the bulk of its 
bulk to Bugs Bunny, vis-a-vis legendary loony tunesmith Chuck Jones.
(Meaning, if you like "Rabbit Seasoning," you'll love this...)  The 
plot, simple as it may be, introduces the ultra-pampered title char-
acter (voiced by Spade), turns him into a llama-- a *talking* llama
-- and plops him down in the middle of the jungle, with only a big, 
big-hearted peasant (voiced by John Goodman) to lead him out.  (Said
transformation actually an assassination attempt, botched, by the 
Emp's ex-advisor, an aging, sagging, spider-looking, Gloria Swanson-
even-more-looking, villainous villainess purred, er, voiced by Ear-
tha Kitt.)  The jokes in this one fly fast, furious, and in every 
conceivable direction, from jump-rope skipping to "shoulder angels," 
from physics-defying physical comedy (see: high place, long fall, 
characters reacting *before* gravity takes effect) to elaborate, ex-
ceptionally funny anachronisms, like the birthday-celebrating wait 
staff (complete with silly sombrero for "victim!") at an Aztec Big 
Boy-style restaurant.  

Hilarious, often, though the kiddies won't get half or even a *quar-
ter* of the gags.  Adults should be in stitches, however, as the 
oft-frenzied film isn't all-out manic.  Well, 'cept for the finale.
There are slower stretches in the first half, for domestic duties 
and later male-bonding purposes.  (The latter complete with male-in-
timacy gags right out of John Hughes' classic PLANES, TRAINS, AND 
AUTOMOBILES.)  Wish the slow/fast transitions weren't so abrupt, or
so lagging-feeling.  Wish also that the early, "human" scenes of the 
Emperor were better-drawn.  Specifically, the character's bland fac-
ial features, which are naggingly non-expressive and certainly don't 
match Spade's splendidly sarcastic voice.  Still, nits aside, this 
is one, damn funny film.  And, maybe (we can hope) a new direction 
for Disney.  Yule laugh out loud.  Yule laugh out loud.  With the 
voices of Wendie Malick and Patrick Warburton, our ol' friend Puddy 
from "Seinfeld," as the thick-necked, thicker-headed henchman Kronk.  
And, yup, that's Tom Jones singing at the start, in the movie's only 
musical number, a Latin-flavored pop-belter written by... Sting (!).  
Splendid, swingin' score by John Debney, too.  (Rated "G"/82 min.)
Grade: B+

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros