One of Disney's most underappreciated animated titles - and its so-so sequel - finally make the journey to high-def....
Buena Vista / 150 Minutes / 2000-2005 / Rated G / Street Date: June 11, 2013
Usually, when a new Disney animated film is ready to hit the theaters, the ensuing barrage of hype is unavoidable - an endless assault of Disney Happy Meals, toys, merchandise, teasers and trailers. But based on the rather unusual lack of prerelease hype, The Emperor's New Groove seemed to be Disney's Black Cauldron of the new millennium; an animated feature that Walt & Co. didn't seem to be very high on, and one they were releasing in the very uncharacteristic month of December, not on the Thanksgiving weekend they typically reserve for their big movies. (I guess Turkey weekend had already been booked for their abysmal 102 Dalmatians?)
But the lack of Disney marketing overkill does not a bad movie make. The Emperor's New Groove features the voices of David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton (aka Puddy from Seinfeld). Spade is really the star of the show as Kuzco, the spoiled anti-hero of the story. He brings his personal brand of sarcasm and comedic cruelty to the film, and delivers the majority of laughs. And against my negative preconceptions, Warburton (who I usually don't care for) also provides an enormous amount of solid humor as Kronk. He's a big, dumb animal that sings his own theme music and provides an innocent evil that made me really enjoy him.
In a way, I really consider this to be an anti-Disney film, not as banal as most of their recent animated offerings. There's a twisted, irreverent sense of humor to Emperor's New Groove that I found refreshing. On several occasions I was reminded of Warner Brother's animated fare, especially their Tiny Toon Adventures and Pinky And The Brain. Everything in The Emperor's New Groove seems just slightly off center, which makes for one of the more unique and entertaining flicks that Disney animation has ever produced, especially for adult audiences. Despite the lack of hype, this is one Disney animated gem not to miss.
And it’s sequel, Konk’s New Groove? Innocuous but benignly enjoyable. Spade returns as narrator, and he’s joined by a steady slate of voiceover performers – John Mahoney and Tracey Ullman to name but two – so while it’s resolutely nowhere near as enjoyable as its predecessor, it’s a jovial if light addition to this Blu-ray edition.