Just like my last TBT film review, this film has found a new lease of life in recent years. There’s something about the internet generation and supposedly underdog films. I never watched this when it was released because I was pretty beyond my Disney phase in 2001. I mean, yes, I still loved the classics of my childhood but would I actively go and see the new releases? Hell no! I was a super mature 13-year-old at that point. I wouldn’t be seen dead at a Disney film. Well, maybe I’d ironically go and watch Monsters Inc with my friend for someone’s birthday and pretend that I didn’t secretly love it. But The Emperor’s New Groove was released during that era of Disney when I wasn’t watching any animated films from the studio. So, why not finally watch it?
More so than Shrek, this film screams the year 2000. The voices, the jokes, the tone. They all work together to firmly plant this film in a very specific year. I’m not saying that a film like that can’t be successful but I’m not sure it helps this film. At least not for me. Though I can see why people love this film. It came after a run of Disney musicals that were taking themselves increasingly seriously. This was their return to comedy and it certainly offers a lot of laughs. Considering this was released around the same time as Dreamworks’ The Road to El Dorado, it needed to stand out. The slapstick elements of this film are fun and would be great for a younger audience. It just feels like it’s missing something.
It wasn’t a film that really grabbed my attention. I was distracted by anything and everything when I was watching. Maybe it’s down to the pace? This movie flies by and you don’t really get much chance to connect to the characters. This is a film that’s all about being silly and making jokes. This is fine and can really work. It just doesn’t feel like the Disney films we’re used to. It lacks heart and emotion. I never really cared about these characters or the peril they found themselves in. I was just watching a talking llama and an old man. Perfectly fine but not what I was looking for.
In terms of animation, it doesn’t really stand shoulder to shoulder with all of Disney’s other work but I think there is a charm to this film. It goes back to a more traditional style and I think it really works for this film. The style only plays up the humour and is extremely nostalgic. The problem is the storytelling. I think everything else is pretty strong but I just can’t get behind this narrative. It’s just lots of weak plots coming together to form one weak whole. In terms of story, this film just doesn’t try very hard to do anything interesting. It takes the back to basics thing a bit too far.
I guess I can see why people like this film so much and there are definite quotable moments. I also don’t regret not having seen it until now. Although, maybe this would seem better if I hadn’t experienced animated films as they are now? The narratives are getting more complex and sophisticated. This is a film that relies too much on style and humour. There’s very little depth here to really grab your attention for any real length of time.