Pick of the Week – September 1-7, 2014

I have a confession to make: I don't like Mickey Mouse. Or Donald Duck. Or Goofy.  Or any of the Disney stable of cartoon characters really.  I like many of their classic animated films, but I wouldn't call any of them favorites.  Of the "modern classics," such as The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, only Aladdin has any re-watch factor for me, and that is solely due to Robin Williams' performance as the Genie.

My taste in Disney’s animated films (And I am not counting anything from Pixar in this) leans toward some of their less appreciated ones: Robin Hood, The Great Mouse Detective, Lilo & Stitch, and this week's pick, The Emperor's New Groove.  Nathan brought up the film on Thursday in THIS post, and the mere mention of it made me smile.  And when I told Corinne that I was planning to make it this week's pick, she immediately launched into several great lines from the movie.  The Emperor's New Groove may not be the best known Disney animated film, but those of us who like it, REALLY like it.

The plot of the film, which involves a bratty, self-absorbed emperor (voice by David Spade) learning to be less of a jerk, isn’t all that remarkable, but the joy of The Emperor’s New Groove comes from the performances and, most of all, the humor.  I would go so far as to say that it is the funniest Disney animated film I have ever seen, and I will include the Pixar films in that assessment.  The Emperor’s New Groove is about as close to the feel of a Warner Brothers cartoon as Disney ever gets.  Some sequences wouldn’t feel out of place in an episode of Animaniacs, which is about the highest compliment I can give. 

While David Spade (whose work I don’t normally enjoy) and John Goodman do solid work as the two leads, the movie is completely stolen by Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton as Yzma and Kronk, the films villains.  Kitt especially sounds like she’s having a ball playing the role of the evil sorceress, and Warburton’s Kronk is the perfect not-too-bright henchman.

After you’ve seen the movie (and pondered the mystery of why they even have that lever), do a little research on the long, painful process of the film’s creation.  Originally, Groove was slated to be an epic tale called Kingdom of the Sun from the same director as The Lion King and with eight songs written and performed by Sting.  The ordeal is chronicled in the documentary The Sweatbox, made by Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler.  Disney, which owns the rights, has never released the documentary on DVD or online (I can’t imagine why), but it might be floating around out there somewhere.

- Alan Decker

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