I have to admit, I was very unimpressed with the title, enough so that I put off seeing this movie until New Year’s Day, 2001. “You’ve thrown off the Emperor’s groove” was supposed to get me into the theatre? However, a dearth of available unseen movies got me in the door, and I am glad I went. It’s not a typical Disney movie, however. It does have Disney’s trademark lush backgrounds and funny visual gags and smooth style. The Emperor (voiced by personal unfavorite David Spade) shares more of his genetic makeup with Chuck Jones or Tex Avery and their ill-natured, vaguely geometric bits than with Ariel or Tarzan. By geometric, I mean to evoke the vaguely beat backgrounds of the coyote/roadrunner cartoons. The movie is sly, sarcastic, sardonic, and for me, that says “funny.” For traditional Disney devotees, it might say “too adult and mean-spirited for my taste.”
Disney may be trying to keep up with the times. They may be trying to shed the nostalgic fairy dust, just like they closed down cheesy favorite ride 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in favor of a featureless lagoon. They may have been experimenting – though a Disney Christmastime release is usually not small potatoes. Emperor (I cannot call it “Groove”) thankfully dispenses with the groovy anachronisms in favor of an unlikely buddy story with a message and a pretty darn funny little plot against Kuzco (Spade). John Goodman is the burly, big-hearted foil to Spade, and thank goodness, since he is simply great, always. Super villainess and ex-catwoman Eartha Kitt is creepy and very funny, with Seinfeld’s Puddy (Patrick Warburton) adding extra funny. I am glad Warburton is working in animation because his voice is perfect for this kind of work.
OK, it’s funny. It’s not a Disney classic, it’s no tour de force of animation and songwriting (there is one song, and it’s just an ego trip of Kuzco’s sung by Tom Jones), but it is a very amusing, fun way to spend an afternoon. Kids taking it at face value may not get the jokes, or they may suddenly adopt a sassy tone around the house. The malice is more along the levels of an episode of Friends (except for some assassination attempts) but it’s still a bit out of the Disney ballpark. Keep your eyes open and you’ll get some extra laughs. Disney still knows how to fill the screen for all ages.
David Spade. I never find him funny, but I did enjoy his work in this film. His wickedness, ego-centrism, and leering snideness are perfect for his role, even if it makes it harder work for him to redeem himself at the end. The score is very cool as well. Catch it!
MPAA Rating G
Release date 12/15/00
Time in minutes 78
Director Marc Dindal, Roger Allers
Studio Walt Disney