The Emperor's New Groove


Directed by: Mark Dindal
Written by:Roger Allers, Mark Dindal, Matthew Jacobs, David Reynolds, Chris Williams
Starring: David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton, Wendie Malick
Released: April 5, 2001
Grade: A

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love animation.  It's amazing how much better a movie can be when you don't have to worry about direction, cinematography, sets and even acting.  All you need is a funny script combined with Hollywood's top animators and you've got a winner.  In 1937, Snow White And The Seven Dwarves set a benchmark that few films have lived up to.  In the 64 years since its creation, animated films have not diminished and in fact, each new year seems to find a record number in release.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has introduced a new category into its annual Academy Awards starting in 2002 for best animated full-length feature.  It stems from the fact that so many good animations are created and aren't considered by Academy voters because they don't feature real people.  The only animated film ever to be nominated for best picture was 1991's Beauty And The Beast.  The award’s inception is sure to increase both the quantity and quality of animations in years to come.

Traditionally, Disney has monopolised the market but given their appeal, the last five years has seen most leading film studios hunting for a slice of the very sweet pie.  For the first time in a decade, Disney did not release an animated film in the last American summer (choosing instead to release the computer animated Dinosaur) and the viewing calendar was lacking.  Instead, December saw the release of the Emperor's New Groove and finally in Australia, we have the chance to check it out.

This fun-loving tale sees Emperor Kuzco preparing celebrations for his own 18th birthday party.  He's spoilt rotten and given his position, has everything his own way.  His adviser, Yzma, has been getting a little power hungry of late so she was promptly fired.  Yzma retaliates and prepares a potion that will kill the emperor but thanks to her idiotic husband/assistant, Kronk, he is transformed into a llama. 

Asked to take the llama out of town to kill, Kronk again makes a mess of things and the llama escapes on the wagon of a distant villager, Pacha.  Pacha isn't a fan of the emperor given that he intends to demolish his house to build a holiday home (complete with a waterslide) and is amused to see the emperor in his new condition.  This gives him an opportunity to negotiate a deal.  He'll help the emperor get back to his castle for the potion that can re-transform him but in return he'll have to find a new location for his holiday home.  And so, the adventure begins...

Narration of films is an often dangerous technique.  Some films are wrecked by voice-overs but for others, it adds to the experience.  David Spade voices Emperor Kuzco and also provides the narration throughout the film.  I can't recall anyone being as good as Spade in any previous film.  He’s side-splittingly hilarious and combined with animation, his character is one of the funniest Disney has created.  Other voices include Spade's Just Shoot Me co-star Wendie Malick, John Goodman, The Dish's Patrick Warburton and Eartha Kitt.

Judging by the laughter of both the adults and children at the advance screening I attended, The Emperor's New Groove hits the mark.  Many recent animations have had few jokes for the kids but this film had them laughing constantly at the idea of an arrogant talking llama and I too was laughing with them.  If you're thinking "there's no way I'm going to see a kids flick" then it is time to wake-up.  If it's that embarrassing, find some kid of a friend or relative and take them with you.  You'll score brownie points whilst having a great time in the process.  Who said babysitting was a chore?