Directed by Mark Dindal, starring (Voices) David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton, Wendie Malick
This is a curious Disney film, with no effort made to give the film the company's usual epic sweep. Everything is pared down to the bare essentials, from Sting's songs to locations and even characters, with the Good v Evil battle being a two-a-side contest. In a bizarre quasi-Aztec kingdom the spoiled, young Emperor Kuzco (Spade) is the victim of a botched assassination attempt by his second in command, the evil Yzma (a brilliantly cast Eartha Kitt) that turns him into a llama. So Kuzco is left stranded in the jungle with only family man peasant Pacha (Goodman) to help him on his quest to regain the throne, learn the meaning of friendship and hopefully meet some highly marketable cute animals en route.
With the plot being so slight you're left relying heavily on your characters, who thankfully deliver. Spade and Goodman bounce one-liners off each other in their roles as polar opposites, while Yzma, who comes across as a parody of Cruella De Ville ("You should have thought of that before you became a peasant!"), has to contend with the inanities of her bumbling sidekick Kronk, (Warburton, TV's The Tick) the film's real scene stealer. While he might not be much good as an assassin, but he cooks great spinach puffs and speaks fluent squirrel.
Ever since Toy Story (1995) raised the bar for animated films every studio has since strived to capture the same crossover audience of parents and kiddies. By and large the result is films like 'The Emperor's New Groove', where all the best jokes go over the kid's heads, despite the fact that they should be the core audience. The film's demented style allows it to parody old classics and be intensely self-referential. For example, the narrator converses with the characters, the film is paused for a scene to be explained and when the film takes a leap of faith the characters complain that the plot doesn't make sense. And they're right.
The adults will enjoy the one-liners and the kids the slapstick, and while the film's overall tone is too slight and forgettable to join the list of classic animated Disney films, it makes for an enjoyable afternoon's entertainment.