The Emperor's New Groove Review

Apr 24, 2001 | 5:53am EDT

Originally planned as a dramatic musical with an ambitious score by Sting the Disney brass monkeys decided to tinker with their "Kingdom of the Sun" script drop the show tunes and detour in an entirely different direction. The result is a lighter and probably much more successful approach. Ruling over his pre-Columbian kingdom the obnoxious and self-centered Kuzco's (David Spade) reign is threatened when his evil advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her dopey henchman Kronk (Patrick Warburton) try to poison him. But nothing goes according to plan with these things and instead of doing away with the emperor the wrong poison turns him into a llama. Dropped into the middle of the forbidding jungle Kuzco begrudgingly enlists the aid of a good-hearted peasant Pacha (John Goodman) to help him return to his kingdom and well de-llamafy himself.

A plum role to showcase the comic talents of Spade the Disney animators capture the former "Saturday Night Live" performer's facetious cynical distance perfectly. On the flip side those who find Spade's humor one-note and grating may be advised to sidestep this venture. As the steadfast Pacha good-natured lug Goodman is fine but an obvious choice. As the villainously wicked Yzma it's refreshing to hear Kitt (a grand underused talent) work her magical voice once again. And as Yzma's thick and distracted henchman Kronk Warburton's thug-like delivery is a nice comic choice but his monotone mumbling is sometimes hard to understand.

Breezily paced and not above poking fun at Disney stereotypes director Mark Dindal (Warner Brothers' animated "Cats Don't Dance") and his animation team's contemporary approach clever art direction and attention to detail make for an entertaining and memorable 80-minute diversion. Arguably the funniest product spun from the Mouse Factory since "Aladdin " "Groove" may appeal more to parental units by eschewing the standard formula momentum-stopping songs for Dindal's zanier more insightful comic moments.

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