Amusing but conflicted

I am not an avid Disney watcher. While I have at least one review of an animated feature here - Final Fantasy being the one that comes to mind - that's not exactly the fare that Disney is in the business of making.

That said, there are certain things about the Emperor's New Groove that are also not what you would expect from the Corporate Mouse. Our protagonist – an Emperor of all things - is something of an anti-hero, the sort who would destroy a village just to create a personal retreat with a pool. In fact, that's half of what propels the script forward. There's also a certain self-referential aspect to the movie that goes beyond what's even hip and almost expected sometimes in popular culture. The characters go so far as to ridicule the nonsense that happens in the plot, perhaps as an excuse to skimp a bit on depth, or perhaps just an admission that anything they come up with is really just driving forward to the film's inevitable conclusion.

The other half of the plot involves a scheming sorceress who manages to turn the Emperor into a Llama in trying to take over the throne. Llamas have lots of potentially humorous situations as you can well imagine, I’m sure.

I’ll spare the details of the plot beyond that. It’s not an impressive one. In fact, I’ll say they fall short of the promise of the title in a key aspect. In the end, the suggestion is the “new groove� is the changed outlook and character of the Emperor, but they never support the pun of the title outside the first few minutes. Supposedly, this was originally going to be a musical, and a far more serious picture than was released, but the songs were removed except from the end credits, and they made it zany and irreverently self-referential. Thus the meaning of the title – which would have been apparent in the musical numbers – disappeared. Titles are not the most important thing there is, though I do harp on them often enough. The problem here is there is a bit of a split personality of the film because of these changes.

The characters are done pretty well, especially the sorceress. David Spade actually does fine in the lead, proving the casting with type sometimes works.

Kids will probably enjoy this one, though it may not be their favorite of this kind of flick. Adults will have some things to laugh at, but probably will see through the Disney magic much of the time.

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