Movie 40: Emperor’s New Groove

emperors posterDo you think David Spade is funny?

Just like with Tarzan and Phil Collins,  it is easy to figure out if Emperor’s New Groove is a movie you will enjoy.  The lead character Kuzco is voiced by David Spade and if you think his brand of sarcastic humor is funny you will probably like the movie.  If not, this one can be a skip.

Luckily I do think he is funny, and I do enjoy this movie.

For some reason we are usually quick to dismiss comedies, whether animated or live action, as being less worthy of praise than dramas or musicals.  I’m not sure why this is because if anything making people laugh is harder than making them cry.  That’s at least my experience.  In writing for Nanowrimo the sections where I am trying to tell a joke are brutal and what I think is funny others don’t give a chuckle.  So I stand up for comedies, especially Disney comedies.

While Disney has comedy in most of its movies there are 5 I would classify as outright comedies-

1. Jungle Book

2. Robin Hood

3. Aladdin

4. Hercules

5. Emperor’s New Groove

Each of these comedies for me has strengths but as far as non-stop laughs I think Emperor’s New Groove is the best.  Jungle Book has great music, Robin Hood adds some adventure and dry wit, Hercules goes gospel, and Aladdin has the funniest single performance in Disney, but it feels like Emperor’s has a joke every 2 sentences and for me 99% of them make me laugh.  Therefore, it is a successful comedy.

I also appreciate the comedy is funny for adults and children.  It’s not like Shrek with innuendo and lewd humor.  Most of it is very sarcastic asides, oftentimes breaking the 4th wall (the characters talking to the audience).

The story is also cooky enough to also make laughter easy.  It’s all so ridiculous it puts us in a mood to laugh.  In fact, when I first heard about a Disney movie about a man being turned into a llama I thought it sounded so stupid, but then I saw it at my college theater and laughed a lot.  Such low expectations made it feel even better than it was but it has held up and still makes me laugh.


The production behind this movie is interesting.  They had originally assigned Roger Allers from The Lion King to direct a serious picture called The Kingdom of the Sun.  They hired Sting to write the songs and his wife made a documentary on the mess (not available I checked everywhere).

Delays kept happening and Michael Eisner was feeling the heat from McDonalds and other companies who were waiting for a movie.  He put the pressure on Allers to produce a film but it was still slow so Eisner asked writers Mark Dindal and Chris Williams to write a 2nd script just in case.

It got up to a year and change before the release date.  Sponsors were getting nervous so Eisner pulled the plug on Kingdom of the Sun, Allers quit and Dindal and Williams completely retooled their idea into what we see today.

Poor Sting was left with only 1 song in the credits. The only other song is sung by Tom Jones called Perfect World which is our intro to Kuzco.

The movie did fine at the box office but word of mouth has made it very popular.

There are celebrity voices just as in the Lion King including David Spade, John Goodman, Ertha Kitt, Patrick Warburton, Wendie Malick, Jon Fielder

The animation really isn’t that special.  It is supposed to be an Incan world but just like with Hercules there is no attempt to be true to the time period or lore of the native people.  This is a comedy and it stands only upon its writing, which I liked.

The Story-


The introduction is very good.  We see Kuzco as a llama in the rain telling us what a sad situation he is in.  He then begins to narrate the story in flashback starting with what a greedy pig he is (but in a comical way)

He’s so greedy in fact that he is going to build a summer home called Kuztopia on the site of a village where our hero, Pacha lives voiced by John Goodman.


He fires Yzma his ‘assistant’ and she grows angry and decides to poison him.  Yzma is a great villain voiced by Ertha Kitt.  Maybe not the most complex but very funny.  I love when they try to use a trap door and it ends up taking her to crocodiles ‘why do we have that lever.’

Unfortunately her poison plot doesn’t go as planned:


Yzma has an assistant named Kronk who is hilarious.  He is a loveable buffoon who loves to cook and battles angels and devils on his shoulders (literally).   The writing for Kronk is consistently funny.

kronk squirrel kronk

Yzma tells Kronk to get rid of Kuzco but he puts him on Pacha’s wagon and figures he’s done for.

Pacha finds Kuzco as a llama and is reluctant to help him since he was so rude about the summer home, but being a good guy and hoping he can convince him to change his mind, Pacha rescues him in a very funny section of slapstick (it reminds me of Captain Hook and the crocodile scenes in Peter Pan).

Pacha is very caring towards Kuzco despite his continued bad attitude and rudeness (creating a lot of the humor).  For example, there’s a nice moment where Kuzco is cold and Pacha gives him his poncho for the night.

They end up making it back to a bridge and it breaks trapping Pacha.  To his horror Kuzco says he is not going to help him and that he is going to have him arrested once they get to the castle.  Pacha yells back ‘we shook hands’ calling back to an earlier conversation.  Then Kuzco trips and they both end up suspended and we get a funny scene with a nice message on trust and teamwork

On the other side of the bridge it is going to be 4 more days together so they end up at a diner in a very funny scene.  Yzma and Kronk are also at the diner but neither of them know it.  This is just classical physical comedy

Kuzco realizes Yzma tried to kill him and the llama was just a mistake and they find out Yzma and Kronk are at Pacha’s home.

Pacha’s family is one of the best family’s in all of Disney, and his wife is pregnant which is the first time a pregnant woman has been on an animated feature.  Go pregnant women! But seriously cool to show all types of women not just pretty adolescent girls.

pregnant pachas wifeThe kids are very funny locking Kronk and Yzma in the closet and give Pacha and Kuzco time to run away.

Finally they get to the castle and as they look for the potion Yzma is there and we get a great chase sequence that I think  is just as good if not better than the wizards duel in Sword in the Stone (still don’t get all the love for that movie) . They turn into all different shapes and sizes depending on the potion they drink.


My favorite is probably when she turns into a cat and has a new voice:

In the end, Kuzco is changed back, Kronk is head of the junior chipmunks and Kuzcotopia is no longer built on Pacha’s village.  (Even that you get a good joke with a man Kuzco threw through a window saying ‘it wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time’.  That’s funny to imagine an old man frequently being thrown through windows)

Movie Review/Conclusion-

It shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to know whether it is for you or not.  The tone and type of humor is obvious from the start and it either makes you laugh or it doesn’t.  For me, it does, and I think that is worthy of praise.

There is some nice messaging and I think the villain is pretty good but all that would be nothing if the jokes weren’t so consistently funny and so plentiful.

So give it a shot.  It’s humor your whole family can enjoy which is actually kind of rare.  Nothing inappropriate or offensive.  Just sarcastic, silly comedy.

The animation is on the Saturday morning level and it is probably on par with good Disney afternoon episodes of Ducktales or Tailspin in that department.

The voice acting is uniformly good and the Tom Jones number at the beginning is fun (if you have a boy who hates musicals this is a good one for him).

My score is going to seem high but it truly did make me laugh that much, and it is one I find myself wanting to rewatch again and again.

Overall Grade- A-

28 thoughts on “Movie 40: Emperor’s New Groove

  1. I think this is one of Disney’s more underrated movies. Like you, I really enjoyed the humor of this film and usually find myself quoting it for days after I watch it. Your rating is spot-on. Great review!

    1. Thanks! It’s strange how quick we are to disregard comedies as less important or valuable than dramas or other types of movies. I’ve sat through enough terrible comedies to know it is no easy task.

      It also goes to show that a troubled production can still make something great and a dumb idea can work, so you should approach things with an open mind.

      Anything with good writing can be great. I’m glad I’m not the only one to give it such high praise 🙂

  2. No idea if Spades is funny or not, but I consider this movie the best Disney Parody out there, because unlike Shrek, it is not mean spirited and unlike Enchanted, it pokes fun at tropes which actually exist in Disney movie. not tropes which people thinks are part of Disney movies or have been outdated for a long, long time.

    It’s totally different from what you expect from Disney, and, being a comedy, not exactly something I would pop into the player regularly, but it is nevertheless one of Disney’s hidden gem. But I admit…the trampoline joke alone would make excuse more or less everything.

    Hate the music choice for it, though.

    1. That’s interesting. I didn’t see it as a parody but I see what you are saying. It takes a lot of jabs at the buddy road trip movie tropes too.
      I think I’m more likely to turn on a comedy than a drama actually.
      David Spade was on Saturday night live for a while and this captures his sarcastic humor well.
      I agree with you hidden gem. The music is a non-issue for me because there is so little of it.

  3. I am not feeling this film. It is extremely and pathetically basic, with basic animation, and decent enough characters. I do laugh a it, but humor is not a huge necessity in the film to overlook all of the issues, which it does have some issues. Not the worst, but definitely not anything special.

    1. For me the humor was enough, but I can see how that wouldn’t be the case for everyone. Thanks for reading!

  4. Awesome review once again! Wow, so you like this film equally as much as Atlantis, eh? Interesting considering many people like New Groove better than Atlantis. Well, I’m glad I know someone else who’s close to the same page as me.

    1. Thanks! I’m glad too. I did give them the same grade but they are such different kinds of movies that it is tough to compare. Emperor’s New Groove is a great comedy. Atlantis is a great action adventure, B summer movie (it’s kind of like The Mummy meets Indiana Jones for kids). Different but do what they are trying to do equally well. I think the animation is probably better in Atlantis.
      Really nice to see someone has the same strange taste as me! 😉

  5. I only watched The Emperor’s New Groove once a long time ago, and at the time it just didn’t leave an impression on me. I remembered the story and characters well enough but most of its humour went over my head at first. I recently started watching clips online and realized it was pretty darn hysterical, channeling a lot of the fast pace and whackiness of the Looney Toons, and felt very much in that same spirit. David Spade doesn’t really bother me because he’s usually eclipsed by his partner-in-crime Adam Sandler, who really does make my blood boil. From what I saw of him he was doing a decent job in the part and sold most of the emotional scenes. So this is definitely one to check out again!

    1. Definitely worth a watch. Humor is extremely subjective but just as far as laughs I think it is funnier than Aladdin…

      1. Because I haven’t rewatched it in a while, I have to take that with a big grain of salt, because I find Aladdin HYSTERICAL, always have and hopefully always will. So a pretty high standard to reach. I’ll get round to reading that review soon.

      2. Oh I love Aladdin too. It’s a better movie over all than this but as far as just laughs I think it isn’t as funny. Both are great so maybe silly to compare. I’ve been trying to avoid the trap of ranking things but it is so easy to do. Why can’t I just enjoy something for what it is? Why do I always feel a need to say whether it is better than something else? I don’t know. In the end Groove is a great comedy. Let’s leave it at that. 🙂

  6. Hey, by the way, I’m just curious, what would your thoughts had been if say Yzma and Jafar had switched films with each other and Yzma had been the villain in Aladdin and Jafar the villain in this film? Anyway, I was just curious.

    1. I don’t think Kuzco would have stood a chance with Jafar. He is a lot smarter than Yzma and less likely to leave his dirty work up to Kronk (he gets Iago to spy for him and things like that but does most of the big stuff himself). Good question!

      1. I love this idea of swapping villains in stories. Got me thinking!

  7. Thanks! I actually thought the same thing with say Rourke and Clayton in terms of of course Rourke being the villain in Tarzan and Clayton, well, the villain in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Anyway!

      1. Yeah there are long sections in Tarzan without Clayton where Rourke is pretty involved in the whole adventure of Atlantis. it’s splitting hairs though. They are very close

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