Road to El Dorado

road to eldoradoIt is no secret I am not the biggest Dreamworks fan.  For me they’ve had two wonderful franchises, How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda and one masterpiece Prince of Egypt but the rest I could do without (although I admit I haven’t seen the Madagascar movies except for Penguins which I liked).  Anyway, I was working on a project and put on a movie as I worked and figured why not give Road to El Dorado a shot as it is on Netflix.  I’d heard some good things and I love action adventure treasure hunting movies, so maybe it would be a forgotten gem?

I’ll just say it- Boy what a stinker…

It does look nice. I will grant it that but that’s really the only praise I have for it.It’s insulting, stupid, inappropriate for children, tonally off and full of unpleasant or underdeveloped characters. In other words, a mess.

But wait…I can hear you saying ‘didn’t you like Atlantis and isn’t that very similar?’.

No it’s not.  Atlantis creates a whole new world with its own culture, people, even language, so nobody is insulted because the culture doesn’t exist (plus it’s inherently more creative and interesting to see something imagined than a cheap reproduction of a people and society).  There is also a whole cast of characters in Atlantis I found  extremely likable and engaging.  Atlantis actually embraces diversity.  This says white people are smarter and better then those silly natives.  The action is well paced in Atlantis and aside from a skimpy swimsuit it is appropriate for kids. So no the two are not alike at all.

road to el doradoThe Road to El Dorado is about 2 con artists  named Tulio (Kevin Kline) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) who in 1519 stow away on Cortes’ boat and sneak to the ‘new world’ to find the City of Gold or El Dorado.  Cortes is a semi-villain and a total snoozefest and from the beginning Tulio and Miguel are very smug and unlikable.

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What a disgusting depiction of native women. Such cliches.

The boys find the lost city surprisingly quickly and of course they are immediately treated like Gods in an offensive caricature of native traditions and people. It’s worse, much worse, than Pocahontas. It’s one thing for Redman in Peter Pan to exist in 1953 but in 2000 to have the kind of at best culturally insensitive characters, story and behavior is really quite shocking.  At least Atlantis had a certain reverence and awe at its imaginary culture.  This was so bad.

We even get a quasi form of soccer that is embarrassing. I don’t know what they were thinking. road to el dorado3The villain is completely underdeveloped and feels like it was copied off of the obnoxious priests in Prince of Egypt. He is overtaken by some kind of evil spirit and creates a rock monster out of the Gods. I guess it is some kind of heathen magic but it is not explained and doesn’t make much sense or add any kind of fear or suspense a good villain should.  At least in Pocahontas I can remember Radcliffe’s name.

road to el dorado7Just like in Pocahontas the movie acts like the natives are completely oblivious to the value of gold, which is absurd.  They literally have scenes with tribeswomen dumping bowls and bowls of gold into the ocean.  As if all Native and Central American tribes did not have commerce, trade and even their own currency. Kids are smart enough to know they weren’t dumping tons of gold into the ocean.  They have made an occasional offering but this is totally over the top and the natives act like they are clueless of it having any value at all. Give me a break.  Seriously the natives are probably more badly portrayed than in Peter Pan because at least that is an imaginary land and it is a 3 minute song and we move on.  This is 75% of the movie one cliche and cringe inducing stereotype after another.

road to el dorado2It is also extremely inappropriate for kids.  I had issues with the skimpy suit in Atlantis but at least she was smart and kind of mythical.  In this the boys gamble, lie, cheat, steal, and are generally bad examples.

But to make it worse it’s surprisingly vulgar for a childrens movie and the princess Chel wears practically nothing and there is a scene where it is strongly implied her and Tulio have sex. I was shocked.

road to el dorado5The music by usually reliable Tim Rice and Elton John is largely forgettable and most of it is sung by Elton John kind of like Phil Collins in the Tarzan movies.  Hans Zimmer takes a huge step down from Lion King with the mundane score.

Like I said it looks nice but I thought this was a real bomb. No wonder it did so poorly at the box office.  I mean who was it made for?  It’s too grown up for most little kids and too stupid and predictable for adults/teens.  Someone was telling me on twitter the studio got involved kind of like Disney and Hunchback and made them change things around so they are in El Dorado longer.  It feels that way. I smell a rat!

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This is the era when Jeffrey Katzenberg was heavily involved with stories and the Dreamworks animation films and I don’t know what he was thinking? He usually has good taste but this is tawdry insulting junk.

I normally don’t review the stinkers but I think it being on Netflix a lot of people will turn it on and I hope this review can sway at least my friends away from it.  I was really offended by it and I don’t get offended that easily.  There is so much good animation on Netflix.  Move on to the next option.

This is a reminder of why I don’t want to review the Dreamworks Canon.  Yuck.

Content Grade- C  Overall Grade- F

32 thoughts on “Road to El Dorado

  1. I also was disappointed by this too when I saw it; I was expecting to like it a lot, but didn’t.

    And yeah, it was quite shocking the lustful sexual tension between those two characters.

    But, up to now, I still have that song ‘It’s Tough to be a God’ stuck in my head, although I don’t particularly like it.

    1. It’s a total earworm song! And so strange how it is the only song sung by the characters and the rest are background songs. It’s a baffling movie.

  2. Yeah, this film blows. While it is not the worst thing I have ever seen, it is one of the things I hated seeing the most. The portrayals of natives completely blew over my head, but now that I think back, they could have done a lot better. My biggest issue with this film is that absolutely nothing came out of it. No one learned anything, no lesion was learned, absolutely no development in any character, and it felt like they randomly put up a story. It is just a flat, heartless mess filled with humor. I was shocked with the hinted sex scene too. I have never seen something so bold.

    1. That’s a really good point. They don’t learn anything! For a movie with so much effort into it it’s surprisingly lazy

      1. No one learns anything? See, I agree for the most part with the case of possibly one, maybe a couple exceptions. That being that Tulio learned to put others before himself. I mean think about it. In the beginning when he and Miguel were in El Dorado, he was so eager to leave El Dorado and take the gold with him back to Spain. Yet, when he and Miguel learn that Cortez will manage to find the city of gold (mainly thanks to Tzekel-Khan leading them there), he’s willing to see to it that the gate is sealed off forever, even if that means crashing the boat into the pillars, losing the gold, and, in doing so, sacrificing his desire to be rich. Also, Tulio and Miguel had a falling out with each other in the middle of the film after Tulio makes the comment to Chel that he wants her to go back to Spain with him and Miguel, but mainly him and to forget Miguel. Anyway, just before the pillar’s to collapse, Miguel decides to go back to Spain with Tulio and Chel after all, telling Tulio that he would hate to let him have all the fun, which surprisingly brightens up Tulio. So in that case, they learn to care about friendships more than themselves, at least I would say. But that’s my game on it. Feel free to let me know your thoughts regarding all this.

      2. That’s a very good point. They do learn and grow a little bit but it isnt a dramatic change from beginning. If the movie wasnt so culturally insensitive I could forgive its other flaws

  3. Atlantis has nothing to do with Eldorado at all, people are so crazy. I also loved Atlantis by the way, such an underrated animated flick…

    I actually really liked Road to Eldorado, mostly because of Miguel (Gotta love Kenneth Brannagh) and the songs. I really liked the songs. But other than that there’s not much of an appeal.
    And I hated the main female character, Chel. H.a.t.e.d her.

  4. Well, as you know, I’m an Atlantean fan too. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was extremely inappropriate for kids. I mean I can likely think of worse films. Still, the part where Tulio and Miguel and the couple scenes where you hear a cus word, why would Dreamworks include that? Seriously! I did like at least a couple of the songs, but that was it. I also liked some of the funny parts in the film. I can see why you hated it. I’d give this one a C too.

      1. Neither do I. That is at least with the part where Tulio and Miguel are naked in that pool thing and the cus words. Seriously, why include Sargent a couple cus words, and second of all, why not at least have the two guys in loin cloths or something like that? That would have made this film less inappropriate and more kid friendly for sure. Oh well! It is what it is, I guess.

  5. By the way, I hope you get to review Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron and Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas fairly soon (as both films are Dreamworks). Both films were likely way better than this one. Heck, Spirit:Stallion Of The Cimarron was the only hand-drawn film of the four to be rated G. Sure that sort of tells you something, eh? Anyway, great review once again.

    1. I never realized DreamWorks had so many PG’s Its interesting because despite for not really being a fan of their movies I will be sad if they go under which is looking more likely everyday.

      1. Well, maybe the company might be saved some how and some way. Here’s hoping their next film, Home (or even films next year like Kung Fu Panda 3) performs well enough to save the company. Well, here we go.

      2. Yeah Home looks pretty bad to me but you never know. The thing that makes me nervous is all 3 of their films last year made a healthy profit so something must be wrong and I’m afraid unless they get a frozen sized hit it won’t be enough but we’ll see.
        If they do go under it will be interesting to see which of the smaller studios takes its place

    1. Over the hedge starts strong and then loses me with an average story. Flushed Away is hurt by coming out the same time Ratatouille which is IMO about a perfect movie but Flushed Away is ok. I guess it’s really the Shrek movies I dont care for. The rest are fine to great

  6. The theme of the movie has 2 morals its the adventure and not the destination, and the other is that true friendship never ends. The natives portal is actually really well done (the women thought they where gods and wanted to appease them people where like that back then.) the Mayan/Aztec cultures had a lot to due with sacrifice that is not made up. They could have made all the natives blood hungry but no only the high priest because with out sacrifices he loses all his power. The characters are well thought out Chel is the femfital that is common in a story that has cons in them. Miguel and Tulio are not the same Miguel is more of a free spirit who wants adventure while Tulio is more of someone who wants to get rich and can live a lavished life style. The Chief is a loving father figure who has his peoples happiness at heart and with out him to counter balance out the Priests insanity the movie would have been bad. Cortez was more of a looming threat toward the end and left Tulio with a choice keep the gold and abandon the people or sacrifice the gold for the peoples safety. Now if that also does not give a strong message I don’t know what will. Miguel also shows that you should not be afraid of a people because they are different from you and that you can teach each other wonderful things. If you don’t look deep into the movie then you won’t find anything. It is like the city of El Dorado in the film, it may look like a waterfall and nothing else but be hide the simple exterior is a city of gold of knowledge that has been forgotten by time.

  7. the scene of the ball game

    Maya “ball game”.

    The cartoon simply took what was a REAL game, put a cute cartoony creature to make the ball (a classic trope on disney/whatever/AMERICAN cartoons)

    nothing to be angry at.

    And besides the people of “eldorada” are mythical. It was a legend of the native people of people so rich in gold they dropped gold items in the water during a ritual, the chief recovered of gold, and so on.

    The cartoon take it like it was real people, and the chief being aloof (and more interested by the interest of his own people) than the richness.

    Also, the chief and Chel (and others) native characters are not clueless. The chief was quick to see the heroes were not weird god, but assets to judge and in the end to decide if they are good persons.

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