A cavalcade of cartoon characters — mutated from American pop culture, inexplicably, as Mayans — plays out a failed version of Disney’s routine tale of adventurous, comic redemption in the studio’s latest animated feature, The Emperor’s New Groove. On the verge of his 18th birthday, Emperor Kuzco (the voice of David Spade from TV’s “Just Shoot Me”) is still a spoiled brat. It’s gala business as usual as he diverts himself with the Las Vegas-style extravaganza of his court — until a clumsy court official commits the grave crime of throwing off the Emperor’s groove.
A brief audience with a bashful giant, llama herder Pacha (the voice of John Goodman, What Planet Are You From?), does little to restore the emperor’s groove, but his cadaverous court advisoress, Yzma (the voice of Eartha Kitt) blows it completely. Kuzco “downsizes” Yzma’s position: He fires her. Then Yzma’s boy-toy assistant, the Herculean Kronk (the voice of Patrick Warburton from “Seinfeld”), bungles her plan to poison their ex-boss, turning Kuzco instead into a llama on the lam. It’s humble Pacha to the rescue. As the odd couple of royal llama and peasant make an adventure-filled journey back to the palace, Kuzco learns hard lessons in teamwork and friendship in spite of himself.
The Emperor’s New Groove presents a motley view of mostly stock characters. Pacha is a kinder, gentler Ralph Kramden to his wife’s Alice. Kronk is like a handsome, but good-naturedly dim college football hero. Yzma is every Disney witch from Snow White’s evil stepmother to Cruella De Vil shriveled down to the point of walking mummification. Kuzco is David Spade’s persona: a tragically hip poster child of the smug and the snide. But why put these all-American pop icons in Mayan brownface, making an absurd suburbia of the Meso-American jungle? Is Disney’s world that small after all?
A Disney movie should tickle our funny bones, spectacularly surprise us and tug at our heartstrings. This one rarely does. In the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the clothes were actually no clothes at all. The Emperor’s New Groove follows suit: no groove, no soul at all.
E-mail James Keith La Croix at email@example.com.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.