I liked everything about The Emperor's New Groove except the movie itself. Disney's feature-length cartoon is an attempt by the Mouse House's animation unit to let its hair down, and boy does that hair come down, forming thick piles of...fun, Fun, FUN! Set during the Incan empire, the movie was going to be called Kingdom of the Sun, and it was supposed to be a musical drama, not a comedy. Then somebody noticed that nobody was having any FUN, so they overhauled the thing and gave the emperor his new groove. The groove, it turns out, is a Chuck Jones groove. I finally lost count of the number of times a character is suspended in mid-air before remembering a little thing called gravity. Where's Daffy Duck when you need him? Instead, we're stuck with Kuzco, who's not just voiced by David Spade but tailored to the comic stylings of David Spade, including the liberal use of "buh-bye." I like Spade as much as the next guy, but he does wear a little thin after a while. Which is to say, he's no Robin Williams, and Disney was clearly hoping that ol' Aladdin lightning would strike a second time. À la Chuck Jones, Spade's Kuzco also narrates, breaking the fourth wall with would-be comic abandon. ("Okay, gang, check out this piece of work," he says before launching another assault on our funny bones.) An egocentric jerk, Kuzco has been turned into a llama, and that's pretty much it for plot, even though the movie, according to my press material, is "based on an original story." Huh?
It all looked so good on paper--a nonheroic hero, Eartha Kitt as a pre-Columbian Cruella de Vil, Tom Jones on the soundtrack. (I did like Kitt's spiders-are-in-this-year clothes.) But the movie doesn't gel. It's an endless string of gags in which the string is dangerously frayed. I laughed a few times, and I should point out that the kids around me laughed a lot more times than that, then applauded (briefly) at the end. So, who knows, maybe it's me. But the way I see it, if you're going to steal from Chuck Jones (including that old bit where the devil-you appears on one shoulder, the angel-you on the other), why not just hire Chuck Jones? He'd have whipped this thing into shape. Without him, it's both too inventive and not inventive enough.