When it first came out back in 2000, I labeled The Emperor’s New Groove as the funniest movie of the year. Seeing it again only bolstered that opinion, in fact it’s probably the funniest movie in Disney’s entire animation catalog. Yzma and Kronk kick the comedy ass of Timone and Pumba.
The movie is a mish mash story about a selfish, maniac Aztec dictator named Kuzko turned into a llama by his evil advisor Yzma. You’ll be able to pick her out easily enough, she’s scary beyond all reason. Kuzko had been planning to destroy the village of a nice, humble guy named Pacha in order to make way for his summer home. It comes complete with a water slide, the perfect addition to the hip Emperor’s already swingin groove.
Kuzko’s plans get interrupted by the whole llama thing, and he ends up stuck relying on Pacha to help him get back to his castle and kick Yzma off the throne. Kuzko isn’t a bad guy exactly, just self-absorbed. After a little time… no scratch that a lot of time hanging out with humble Pacha maybe he’ll change his ways. If Pacha’s good example doesn’t help him, maybe being chased by panthers, dropped off ledges, and thrown in a river will.
The reason Emperor’s New Groove works when just about every other Disney animated movie released in this era doesn’t, is because it gives up trying to be another big, Mouse House classic, and instead focuses on simply being a cartoon. A funny as hell cartoon and one of the best ever stretched out into a full ninety minutes.
Whether it turned out that way by accident or intent is open to debate. The production was troubled and Disney’s original intent for the movie was something along the lines of The Lion King or Pocahantas instead of a feature-length Bugs Bunny. Thankfully that never happened and we end up with a unique, bizarre, sometimes surreal road movie featuring the llama equivalent of Daffy Duck. It’s a movie that marches to the beat of it’s own weirded out drum.
A big part of the credit has to go to their fantastic voice cast. Patrick Wharburton steals the movie as Yzma’s boy-toy lackey Krunk. He’s a big, dumb, strong guy with a knack for talking to squirrels and talent as the world’s spiffiest short-order cook. It’s probably funnier in context. David Spade is great as the sarcastic, ego-maniacle, whiny Kuzko. John Goodman plays a great straight man to Spade… an odd juxtaposition since in the Farley/Spade dynamic it was usually Spade playing it straight.
In an era where Disney’s animation division is in disarray and desperate for resurrection, Emperor’s New Groove is their one, oddball bright spot. An instant classi, but as a full on comedy, not as another epic Disney masterpiece. It’s only gotten better with time. Put it in your DVD player and pull the lever. You’ll be glad you did.
Wait, wrong lever…
This is not The Emperor’s New Groove’s first time on DVD. It’s not even it’s second time. This is a blatant triple-dip, probably meant to build hype for Disney animation in the face of the impending release of Chicken Little. Worse, this isn’t just a triple-dip, it’s an utterly pointless one. There’s already a loaded up, 2-Disc Collector’s Edition of the movie out there on shelves. This puny, one-disc release offers nothing to justify purchasing it over that one, or for that matter even the original, bare-bones version floating around out there.
Alright, so now you know why you’d be a fool to buy this. Let’s talk about what you’ll get if you’re somehow still determined that you should. It’s a single disc release, with some nice enough menus featuring a dancing Kuzco and the picture and audio presentation is well done, as you’d expect.
The meat of the disc’s extra features is a behind the scenes documentary with the film’s producers. It’s short, and full of a lot of gratuitous ass-kissing towards Sting and grandiose claims about how wonderful the movie is. This fits together nicely with the movie’s commentary track, also with the movies completely insane producers. In the commentary track, they go on to kiss Sting’s ass some more, somehow giving him credit for the entire success of the film, even though he had absolutely nothing to do with it beyond singing a terrible song that they play over the credits. I wonder if they got back stage passes out of it or something. Worse, the guys who made this film clearly have completely lost their perspective. Apparently, The Emperor’s New Groove is the most ground-breaking animated film of the past 20-years. They take credit for inventing gags that Bugs Bunny was doing regularly in the 70’s. Their arrogance is staggering. At least they offset it all by later indirectly give Sting credit for everything. He’s a saint, he’s a freakin genius. This is probably the worst commentary track I’ve ever been forced to listen to, and hearing these sycophant egomaniac’s talk about their movie made me want to hate it.
The inexplicable ass-kissing of Sting continues with the inclusion of the “Making Of” his music video… for a song that plays over the credits and no one cares about Because when people thing The Emperor’s New Groove, the of course thing about wanting to spend some time with um… Sting. And for those of you who don’t’ like Sting (crazy people surely) they’ve decided to torture you further with the inclusion of a Rascal Flatts music video. Rip off your ears… NOW.
The only things on this disc that won’t make you wish for death is a silly little DVD game called “The Emperor’s Got Game”, in which you have to answer trivia questions to help a little animated Kuzko get to his castle. A couple of the questions are actually pretty hard, and the voice-overs and clips used in it are funny. DVD games as a general rule are useless crap, and this one is no exception, but if you’ve got to watch something on this DVD this is the only thing that’s not painful.
And while we’re talking painful, let’s bring up the not-so-groovey deleted scenes they’ve included. They all suck. Thank god they were left deleted. Worst deleted scenes ever. Plus, deleted scenes for an animated movie are always disappointing anyway. They’re all un-animated pencil drawings shown in the form of a slide show. Like someone got a disgruntled animator drunk at a cocktail party, and he started sketching the movie on a napkin the way he would have done it if those damn suits at Disney hadn’t forced him to do it their way.
I guess you can’t really blame Disney for releasing this disc, triple-dip that it is. It’s not like they can release Pocahantas to build up hype for Disney releases. New Groove is they’re only decent, modern animated movie. But you can blame them for making it such an utter piece of shit. The movie’s great, and for that I give this thing an extra half star. But don’t fall for the triple-dip. If you want to own Emporer’s New Groove (and you should) then find the 2-Disc version. It’s ten bucks more, but worth it.