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Movie Review

The Emperor's New Groove

Reviewed by: Curtis D. Smith

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family
Animation Comedy
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Emperor Kuzco in “The Emperor’s New Groove”
Relevant Issues
Pacha and Chicha in “The Emperor’s New Groove”

ROYALTY of the Bible: Kings / Queens / Princes

Mercy in the Bible





Featuring: David Spade, Eartha Kitt, John Goodman, Owen Wilson, Patrick Warburton
Director: Marc Dindal, Roger Allers
Producer: Randy Fullmer
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

“The Emperor’s New Groove” is a solid, enjoyable Christmastime release that features most of the standard animated feature aspects except (thankfully) an abundance of crude jokes, hackneyed singing and countless fast food toy tie-ins. It has all the animated feature elements in all the right spots: negligible potty humor, merciless yet ineptly benign bad guys and a strong moral message.

And you thought that Walt Disney Pictures was to the point of being morally irreparable. Maybe not. It seems that Hollywood—led by a growing base of virtuous family films—may finally be catching on to the fact that ethical stories not only sustain a clear conscience, but they consistently generate huge amounts of money at the box office.

A whiney-sounding David Spade has the title role as Kuzco, a young, self-centered emperor in need of a serious attitude adjustment. Kuzco’s problems begin after he unsympathetically fires Yzma (a well-cast Eartha Kitt), one of his top aides, and her goofy assistant Kronk (Patrick Warburton). Later that same day, Kuzco summons Pacha (John Goodman) to inform him that his beautiful, reclusive village will be demolished to make way for the new royal swimming pool.

Pacha is devastated and prepares to return to his village while Yzma seeks revenge with poison. While hosting dinner for her former employer, Yzma’s assistant gets her concoction mixed up with some others in his drink and rather than kill Kuzco it turns him into a Llama.

She orders the kind-hearted yet incompetent Kronk to kill Kuzco, but through a series of humorous events the young emperor instead winds up unconscious and lying on the cart towed by Pacha back to his village. Once at the village Kuzco wakes up and Pacha discovers that his leader cannot get home without his help. But Yzma and Kronk are quickly on the trail of Kuzco to finish the job so they can take over the kingdom without resistance.

The overall lesson espoused by the filmmakers from Kuzco’s point of view is that self-centeredness and pride can get a person in a lot of trouble as time and again we see the emperor falling victim to his own narcissism. Also, his self-absorbed jealousy over Pacha’s beautiful village causes him to make decisions that are harsh and divisive.

Aside from lessons regarding malevolence, the qualities of promise-keeping, family unity and honesty are championed by Pacha’s honorable character though he is not immediately rewarded for his integrity. Things might seem gloomy for Pacha initially when the young ruler pledges to wipe out his village, but the strong family man (who deeply loves his protective wife and two joyful children) is eventually victorious for keeping his word, following through with his promises and considering of the needs of others before himself—even the needs of a young, egocentric ruler.

Kuzco’s hard lesson on humility and the sin of pride is classic Biblical instruction, whether the filmmakers know it or not. Kuzco’s pride is a result of Earthly wisdom, power and luxury and his life decisions are based solely on his own needs and wants regardless of who might be disrupted.

James 3:13-16 addresses this issue when it says, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is Earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”

Aside from its strong moral messages, “Emperor’s” exploits a minimal amount of the relentlessly flamboyant, dazzling and over-the-top pandemonium that’s frequently found in Disney animation. The dizzying, hyperactive pace of some Disney features like “Aladdin”, or “Hercules” seem to have dumbed audiences down to the expectation of mindless eye candy rather than substantive shows that manage to speak to an important social or moral issue. It’s refreshing to see a quality, deliberately-paced Disney feature rather than another rock-em sock-em, we’re-going-to-wear-you-out animation extravaganza.

“Emperor’s” almost hearkens back to the way Disney animated features used to be before short attention spans and video games became so popular. It’s not a perfect film, however. The animation is solid, but not remarkable, the title is incomprehensible and many of the characters seem to slip by unnoticed. But, as mentioned before, this may be due to the bombardment of overt visual stimuli in prior animated features.

Whether the kids go for it is a much different question, but “…Emperor…” is a good enough story to offer a quality alternative to the crude double-entendres or frantic pace we’ve been forced to endure in some past films.

Viewer Comments
My children are 6, 4, and 2. We went to see this and they all said, “Mama, this is bad.” The villain in the movie looked like a cross between a witch and a zombie, she was viciously violent and incessantly talked about killing the king. Although “magic” wasn’t mentioned, the villain did turn people into various animals with potions. Whatever “good moral message” this movie was supposed to have was buried in the violence and sarcasm. In addition, the hero repeated at LEAST 3 times the line, “there’s a little good in everybody.” The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.(Rom.3:23) I had to apologize for taking my kids to this.:(( My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
Jenny, age 31
I enjoyed it. The story starts kind of slow and my 2 year old got a little anxious by the end wandering around the row we sat in. But I enjoyed the good message of humility and cooperation to achieve a goal and sacrifice for the good of others and keeping commitments despite the personal cost. My Ratings: [Excellent / 3½]
Rev. Kevin Purcell, age 31
I took my 4 year old daughter to see this movie and she loved it. It provided a nice family outing and I didn’t have to worry about language or crude jokes. The only thing I had to explain was why the emporer’s assistant wanted to kill the emporer. My Ratings: [Good / 4]
Doug Hamblin, age 35
The story line was good and it had the potential of having a good message. But, I really was upset by the sarcastic humor in the movie. It was not obvious to me or my children that Kuzco’s attitude was one not to be emulated. His selfishness was able to be seen, but the script writers made it seem funny to have smart alec retorts and a careless disregard for others. I even caught myself laughing, but in retrospect hoped that my children didn’t pick up the attitude or the comments. I want my children to have fun and to laugh, but more than that I want them to have respect for others and compassion. I can’t say that this movie was a “bad movie”, but knowing how quickly kids repeat a word or phrase that gets a reaction of laughter, I would hesitate to let them watch it again. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
Gayle, age 28
Nothing bad, I think God would give it a good moral rating, however it does say in the beginning in the theme song, that the Emperor was the Alpha and the Omega, which is what God is. Though things change, and unlike in other movies, where the bad guy dies, in this movie, the exalted evil emperor, then is changed to good, and stays that way. As for the movies bad guy, well, she does not die. It was extremely funny, and is even better if you see it with little ones. My Ratings: [Good / 4]
Blake W., age 13
I didn’t like this movie at all! Although there was nothing offensive in it (which is good) I just didn’t like it. It was too short… It had almost no plot at all!! A waste of my $6.00… My Ratings: [Good / 1½]
Theresa, age 41
I went to see this movie with my older sister and some friends of ours and we loved it! It was so refreshing to see a movie and not leave with your conscience feeling blemished. I sincerely hope and pray that Disney and others make more movies like this. My Ratings: [Excellent / 3]
Alicia, age 14
I went with my friend to see this movie and we were kept in stitches the whole time! It taught a good lesson about being selfish and giving to others. I would recommend this movie to anyone-kids or adults. Two big thumbs up! My Ratings: [Excellent / 5]
Hayley, age 12
I went to see this movie with my 5 and 7 year old sisters and my 8 year old brother. We all really enjoyed it. It made the good in people attractive and the evil in people unattractive. (Often not what we see on the big screen). It was funny and left you with a great feeling, since the good wins over the evil here. My brother now wants to go see it a third time. He stills laughs about some of the parts. We were pleasantly surprised when we saw this movie—at the morality and comedy. My Ratings: [Good / 3½]
Jessica Epperson, age 10
The beginning of the movie reminded me of “Hercules”. Come to think of it the whole movie was similar—20th century sarcasm meant for humor. It did keep my interest though. Good lesson on overcoming self-absorption. Certainly tons better than the last children’s movie I took my six-year old to see (Chicken Run—but then, that couldn’t be too hard)! My Ratings: [Good / 3½]
Diane Eannarino, age 44
I was impressed by the humor and unique plot. It was nice to see Disney expound family and Biblical virtues without adding politically correct garbage. I was also pleased to see that the main message was that you were responsible for your actions and those actions brought consequences. The music was enjoyable, but it did not stick out like in Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. One of the best movies from Disney in years. This is a movie you can bring your whole family to and leave feeling uplifted and good. My Ratings: [Good / 5]
Ned Jondle, age 37
Well, overall, it was a very comedic movie. Me and my friend laugh so much in that movie. It also had some good principles in it that kids should know. One thing that kind of turned my view of the movie, which was almost at the beginning of it, was when the man was singing a song about the emperor. He sang “he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end…” Me and my friend both turned to each other looking puzzled about if this movie was going to be sacreligious or not. It turned out to be a pretty good movie… My Ratings: [Good / 3]
Mike T., age 16
This movie was quite a surprise to me. Even though it didn’t seem long enough the movie was very entertaining. Though the evil aide uses some sort of potion, there’s really nothing occultic about it. This is great for everyone. (By the way, is it just me or are you tired of seeing characters cross-dress to sneak in somewhere?) That’s about the only part I didn’t find funny. Other than that, this is an awesome movie. My Ratings: [Good / 5]
Nick Smith, age 15
My 10 year old brother and I went to see this movie after referring to your Web site, and we really enjoyed it. There was nothing offensive in it, no bad language that I can think of, and it had a good moral message. The animation wasn’t the best quality I’ve ever seen from Disney (such as in Beauty and the Beast or other Disney movies) but there was a lot of humor in it, and everyone in the theater seemed to be enjoying themselves. We certainly did. My Ratings: [Excellent / 3]
Nicole, age 15
Delightfully entertaining. There was plenty of funny dialogue to keep adults interested in this cartoon. David Spade was perfect for the voice of the emperor. My Ratings: [Good / 4]
Mark L. Gilliam, age 39
Movie Critics
…Like Disney features of old, this delightful film has virtually no suggestive, double-meaning remarks or objectionable language…
Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…teaches many positive character traits and moral values in a redemptive fashion…
Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide