Today! Because it’s not the first time I was tossed out of a window, and it won’t be the last –
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Directed by Mark Dindal
Starring David Spade, John Goodman (x4), Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton (x2), Wendie Malick (x2), Tom Jones (x2), Patti Deutsch
Pound for pound one of the funniest animated movies ever made, The Emperor’s New Groove snuck into theaters around Christmas 2000 and opened to approximately zilch. Okay, that’s not 100% accurate, but it sure didn’t open well – was everyone aware this thing was coming out? – but it managed to hang around forever, ultimately putting up nearly a 9X multiplier from its first weekend, which if you know anything about box office is an insane number. Word of mouth caught on and saved a near disaster!
But its popularity would’ve gotten there eventually either way. New Groove is surprisingly funny, amazingly so, even if you’re not a particularly big fan of David Spade. I’m an old SNL devotee from way back, though, so this was not a drawback. His work here, as the egocentric emperor turned into a llama, is perfect – just the right actor in just the right part. Animated films – especially from this era – could be really hit or miss in this area. The mania to put huge movie stars into voice roles was a great marketing/publicity tool, but didn’t always serve the film best (I don’t want to get into specifics, but virtually all late ’90s Disney films suffer from this at least a little bit).
The decision here to cast names but not necessarily gigantic stars pays off, as Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Wendie Malick, and especially Seinfeld alum Patrick Warburton deliver a stream of wacky gags and keep the pacing strong. There’s music, but it’s not a musical – having Tom Jones provide Kuzco’s theme song is wonderful – and it’s silly enough to work for kids while clearly geared toward adults. It’s endlessly quotable – “Why do we even have that lever?”, “Come on, men! No one lives forever!”, “Yay! I’m a llama again!” – not to mention full of classic bits – Kronk does his own theme music! While I’m not sure this will ever become a beloved Disney staple, it has proved popular enough to spawn junk direct-to-video sequels and a few TV series spin-offs. Still, the fact that Disneyland hasn’t opened a Kuzcotopia is a total crime.
As I continue to try and ascertain the wife’s 400 favorite movies, she does readily admit to placing The Emperor’s New Groove in her top ten. I’m chipping away! I keep trying to get her to nail down a location for Rocky IV, but she insists she doesn’t remember which one that is. I’ll get there!
In those pre-Best Animated Feature days, non-Beauty and the Beast films had to settle for music nominations almost exclusively, and Emperor’s New Groove was no exception. I’ve seen this movie, I’m going to ballpark, a dozen times, but I have no idea what its nominated song – “My Funny Friend and Me” by Sting and Dave Hartley – sounds like, or where in the movie it appears. And God knows they weren’t going to create a Best Squirrel Translation award just for this film, so it was basically doomed!
I’d like to give the movie MVP to Laugh-In/Match Game staple Patti Deutsch, for her quick, funny work as the diner waitress.
Warburton (#385 Bee Movie), Malick (#227 Scrooged), and Tom Jones (#310 Mars Attacks!) all join the Two-Timers today, but it’s Warburton’s Bee Movie co-star Goodman making the great strides, moving to the Fours, along with his roles in #274 Argo and #197 Inside Llewyn Davis. Spotlight!
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