Judge Patrick Naugle smells like a llama. Coincidence?
Our review of The Emperor's New Groove: The Ultimate Groove, published June 10th, 2002, is also available.
"Why do we even have that lever?"
Disney has two tiers of animated releases: the big fanfare flagships of the Disney catalog ( Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Lion King, Toy Story), and the lesser films not as universally respected (The Rescuers, Oliver and Company, The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Many of these second tier offerings are now getting double feature releases, including The Emperor's New Groove and its DTV sequel, Kronk's New Groove.
Facts of the Case
The Emperor's New Groove
Kronk's New Groove
There are Disney fans who will argue there are far better movies in the Mouse House canon. While I'm sure that's true, I don't know that there's a movie quite as funny as The Emperor's New Groove. The history of the film is filled with last minute edits, title changes, cut musical numbers, and failed test screenings. For all intents and purposes, this should have been a complete failure. That it didn't end up as a total bomb must be some kind of pixie dust miracle.
If anything, The Emperor's New Groove is the one movie in the Disney history books that comes the closest to channeling the anarchic spirit of Warner Bros' Looney Tunes and Tex Avery. While it's certainly aimed at kids, the movie is also one of the most adult animated movies Disney has ever produced. A lot of the reason for that is the inclusion of comedian David Spade as the title character, basically playing a cartoon version of his real life persona. Spade is a divisive actor who some people find hysterical (my included) while others find too acidic and mean spirited. In The Emperor's New Groove, the actor spews forth a lot of insults and sarcasm, which is what makes the movie so appealing to adults who don't want to sit through another minute of syrupy, saccharine animated schmaltz.
The plot line for The Emperor's New Groove is fine—an emperor is turned into a llama and must find a way to redeem not only his body but also his cruel and indifferent reputation—but what really makes the film worth seeing are the characters. The Emperor's New Groove is filled with a memorable cast who are all pitch perfect. David Spade is relentlessly amusing as the spoiled Emperor Kuzco and John Goodman makes a decent straight man as Pacha, the good hearted villager trying to get Kuzco to change his mind on building his vacation home in their village mountaintop. Equally funny are the film's villains; late singer/actress Earth Kitt's boney, bug eyed Yzma is a real hoot while Patrick Warburton deadpans his way through her assistant, Kronk (so popular he'd get his own spin-off movie). The movie basically revolves around these four characters, and all four actors do a wonderful job with the script's playful, screwball antics (including a wonderful scene at a diner where Kuzco, as the llama, is dressed as Pacha's wife).
I realize that The Emperor's New Groove is often discarded by Disney fans as a Saturday morning cartoon expanded into feature film length. In a way, they're right; the story doesn't have the scope of some of the best Disney movies, and while the characters are downright hysterical, they're not as memorable as movies like The Lion King or Peter Pan. That being noted, for sheer laughs per minute, I truly believe you won't find a funnier movie under the Disney animated banner than The Emperor's New Groove.
For as good as The Emperor's New Groove is, the less said about the 2005 direct-to-DVD dud Kronk's New Groove, the better. Running a scant 72 minutes, Kronk's New Groove will test the patience of anyone over the age of seven years old. Although much of the original cast returns—including Patrick Warburton as the title characters and brief moments with David Spade, Earth Kitt, and John Goodman—the story complexly flat lines after about ten minutes. Did anyone really need to get a history lesson on Kronk's extended family? Even with the help of some new cast members, Kronk's New Groove can't compete with the polished zaniness of the original film.
Kronk's New Groove's glaring problem is that it spends way too much time focusing on Kronk, a character that was funny in small doses in the original film and a bit tiring when put front and center. It's clear only a few moments in that Kronk's New Groove is going to be a quickie cash-in sequel that feels bankrupt for ideas. For as much as I laughed at The Emperor's New Groove, I found myself chuckling once, maybe twice, during Kronk's New Groove—and those felt more like pity laughs than actual guffaws. Essentially, Kronk's New Groove is a movie that isn't just a big step down from the original; it's a huge leap in the wrong direction.
The Emperor's New Groove and Kronk's New Groove are presented in 1080p high definition widescreen. Both transfers look very good, although watching both films made me realize that, while nice to look at, neither film holds a candle to some of Disney's more spectacular (and popular) titles. Color saturation is good and the black levels look solid. Kronk's New Groove looks slightly flatter, which isn't very surprising considering it's a lower budget, direct-to-DVD title. The soundtracks are both presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. Overall these are good audio mixes that are sonically well designed (lots of fun directional effects, especially in The Emperor's New Groove). Plus, how can you not want to hear Tom Jones singing in DTS-HD surround? Also included on these discs are Dolby 5.1 mixes in French, Russian, and Spanish, a Dolby 2.0 mix in English, and English, French, Russian, and Spanish subtitles.
The good news is that all the bonus features available on the previous versions of The Emperor's New Groove and Kronk's New Groove are included on this set. The bad news is that they are only on the two standard DVDs included as bonus discs. The Blu-ray disc (which includes both feature films) doesn't include s single extra feature (which means if you want to listen to the commentary track, you have to watch the film in standard definition).
The Emperor's New Groove is a fun, witty Disney diversion that will tickle both adults and children. Kronk's New Groove is better left out in the rain.
One Groove is more than enough.
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