The Emperor's New Groove

on December 15, 2000 by Dwayne E. Leslie
   On the eve of his 18th birthday, Emperor Kuzco (voiced by David Spade), a heartless, self-centered brat who feels that the general populace's sole purpose is to serve him, commands citizens to build him a personal water park and then terminates the services of his aging advisor, Yzma (Eartha Kitt), without a hint of remorse. In retaliation, Yzma turns Kuzco into a llama, forcing the petulant animorph to befriend a peasant, Pacha (John Goodman), to survive. Pacha is reluctant to help at first, since it is his village the Emperor wants to tear down for his water park, but the kind-hearted constituent ultimately decides to aid his Emperor. The unlikely duo's friendship solidifies after a comical fight between the two as they dangle high above a ravine with only a few vines holding them up. The transformation Kuzco goes through under Pacha's tutelage is predictable but Spade's sarcastic humor throws some curves in the road down which this buddy-buddy adventure travels.

   Going against the Disney norm, this film is not deluged with musical numbers every few minutes--though at a humorous high point, Yzma's henchman Kronk (Patrick Warburton) is sent on a secret mission whereupon, creeping from the palace, he provides his own theme music. When he has to freeze to remain undetected, he is still audibly holding a note as people walk by.

   Even in animation, the formula that has worked over and over for David Spade--the incongruous pairing of "fatty and skinny," as he has been known to term it--is employed to great success in Disney's seriously revamped film, formerly known by the more portentous title "Kingdom of the Sun." After cutting out a few characters, drastically changing the plotline and dropping several songs, the result is genuinely a new groove with a humorous, feel-good twist.    Voiced by David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton. Directed by Mark Dindal. Written by David Reynolds. Produced by Randy Fullmer. A Buena Vista release. Family. Rated G. 79 min.

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