"The Emperor's New Groove"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    David Spade as EMPEROR KUZCO
    John Goodman as PACHA
    Patrick Warburton as KRONK
    Eartha Kitt as YZMA
    Wendie Malick as CHICHA

    Rated G
    Studio: Disney

    Directed by: Mark Dindal
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To some, “The Emperor’s New Groove” marked the beginning of the end to Disney’s theatrical ink-and-paint animated film. And that’s an understandable analysis. After all, this film bombed – worse than “Atlantis” but not nearly as bad as “Treasure Planet.” It was also in the days that Disney feature animation was still reeling from the death of Howard Ashman as they scrambled to figure out whether the movies needed songs or not.

However, I always liked “The Emperor’s New Groove.” It is a sharp, snappy flick with hilarious dialogue, esoteric humor and some of the more creative twists and turns you’ll see in a Disney film yet. Deep down, I’d like to believe that this film will be remembered years from now as one of the better animated films to emerge from this decade.

Of course, I understand that “The Emperor’s New Groove” was its own worst enemy. It really isn’t a kids film. Oh sure, there’s a lot of silly things, bright colors and fuzzy animals. But it’s really more of a film for adults. Not only are there references in the story that kids will never hope to understand, but the level of humor is a little too adult. Much of the gags go over the kids’ heads.

The movie tells the story of a spoiled emperor named Kuzco (David Spade). While planning his own selfish pursuits, his trusted advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) tries to poison him. Unfortunately, this assassination is botched when she serves him extract of llama instead of poison. Kuzco turns into a talking llama, and Yzma’s oafish sidekick Kronk (Patrick Warburton) gets rid of him by passing him off on an unsuspecting villager (John Goodman).

“The Emperor’s New Groove” came out after Disney struck it rich with Robin Williams in “Aladdin,” and they were searching for known actors to voice their characters. Where they stumbled with choices like James Woods as Hades in “Hercules” and the excruciating Rosie O’Donnell in “Tarzan,” they found a gold mine in this film.

The voice cast is excellent. David Spade is the perfect choice for the whiney emperor, and John Goodman plays a good foil to his extreme nature. Eartha Kitt has a blast as the evil Yzma, who is described in the film as “scary beyond all reason.” But the real scene stealer in “The Emperor’s New Groove” is Patrick Warburton as Kronk. Best known for his role as Puddy in “Seinfeld,” Warburton exhibits brilliant comic timing and hilarious underrated deliveries. It’s no surprise that he’s been tapped as the main character for the new Disney direct-to-DVD release “Kronk’s New Groove,” due out later this year.

This new DVD release contains many of the features that were available on the initial release a few years ago. There’s a competent commentary by the filmmakers and several deleted scenes – one that even made it to animated color. Two videos can be found on the disc, one with Rascal Flatts performing “Walk the Llama Llama” and the other with Sting’s “My Funny Friend and Me.”

Finally, there’s a standard behind-the-scenes video of the production as well as a set-top trivia game. Pretty standard as far as special features go, but that’s not the reason to get this DVD. The reason to pick up “The Emperor’s New Groove” is the movie itself. It’s really a lot of fun.

Specifications: DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.66:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French language tracks. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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