With CGI animation beginning to take over the industry in 2000, Walt Disney’s animation studio stubbornly continued churning out traditional line animation features hoping for another success like The Lion King or, to a lesser extent, Tarzan. The Emperor’s New Groove tries almost too desperately to be hip and with-it, but even with its occasionally pushing too hard for effect, it’s a fine, funny animated adventure (not a musical though there are a couple of songs) filled with great sight gags and an accomplished cast of character voices to give the movie a real sense of zaniness. The also included made-for-home video sequel Kronk's New Groove is tolerable but only that.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, 1.66:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 18 Min.; 1 Hr. 15 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDkeep case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/11/2013
The Emperor’s New Groove – 4/5
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) is a spoiled, vain Incan ruler who is only concerned with satisfying his every whim, and that includes wiping out an entire village so he can build a summer home there complete with a swimming pool and water slide. Entreaties from resident Pacha (John Goodman) fall on deaf ears, but when scheming court witch Yzma (Eartha Kitt) mistakenly turns Kuzco into a llama instead of outright killing him, she calls on her right-hand-man Kronk (Patrick Warburton) to do away with him. The brawny but rather brainless Kronk can’t bring himself to commit murder, so he tosses him on a wagon headed out of town, a wagon driven by Pacha who will only agree to take Kuzco back to his palace if he’ll agree to abandon plans to obliterate his village. Kuzco has a few tricks up his own sleeve in order to regain his former status and rank.
Told in flashback, Kuzco’s story (script by David Reynolds from a story by director Mark Dindal and Chris Williams) is a more than adequate framework on which to hang a succession of slapstick scenes which flesh out the personalities of all the principal characters. In fact, the writing and subsequent superb animation (a sequence set at night with the characters against the backdrop of a starry sky is an astounding bit of animated magic) are as close as any Disney movie has ever gotten to the ribald sense of madcap humor, the wise-acre points of view, and the meticulously timed sight gags which can be found in the best of Looney Tunes. Eartha Kitt makes a deliciously evil witch, and Patrick Warburton makes a perfect dense-as-dust foil to her chicanery. David Spade has the sardonic egotistical ruler down pat while John Goodman is a fine everyman who’s the kind of trusting and good natured protagonist who can only be pushed so far. Tom Jones sings and swings us into and out of the film with “Perfect World” while Sting’s “My Funny Friend and Me” (which earned an Oscar nomination) is warbled during the closing credits.
Kronk’s New Groove – 2.5/5
With his father (John Mahoney) coming for a visit, Kronk (Patrick Warburton), now a popular fry cook at the local eatery, realizes that in order to get a longed-for thumbs up from his Papi, he’s got to make good on two promises he made to him when he left home: that he’d have a wife and kids and a beautiful home on a hill. Since he has neither, Kronk is rather desperate to get both. Former ally/now a half witch/half cat Yzma (Eartha Kitt) has a plan for him to get a house, but it will require cheating a house full of senior citizens out of their home and all of their money (which she’ll keep for herself). Kronk’s love life has been lacking until he meets the troop leader of a rival Chipmunk scout troop, Miss Birdwell (Tracey Ullman). They’re just right for each other, but their respective competitive natures will make a romance between the two very difficult.
Told in flashback like its predecessor, this made-for-home video effort is very episodic in nature with each of Kronk’s two quests accounting for roughly half of the film’s running time. The film is noticeably lacking in the kind of free wheeling humor and zany wise guy attitude from the original movie (Emperor Kuzco interrupts the story a couple of times to make wry comments on his lack of participation in the film, and the film must stoop to desperate nods to Saturday Night Fever, Lady and the Tramp, Lord of the Rings, and Titanic allusions), and while it’s great to have the original cast back abetted with the additions of the talented John Mahoney and Tracey Ullman in their respective roles as Papi and Miss Birdwell and there are some fun tunes (Kitt’s “Feel Like a Million” and the introductory “Your Groove”), the crazy sense of anything goes just isn’t much in evidence here making for a most lackluster sequel.
The Emperor’s New Groove – 5/5
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The film is framed at 1.66:1 for this transfer and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The animation comes across beautifully in high definition with no aliasing at all in the line drawings and no banding seen in the backgrounds. Colors are wonderfully saturated but never to the point of being overdone, and black levels are rich and deep. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Kronk’s New Groove – 4/5
This made-for-home video effort is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Of course, the intricacy and depth of the animation is nowhere near the quality of the feature animation for the original film, but in color solidity and lack of aliasing, this sequel matches its predecessor in quality. There is, however, some minor banding to be seen in purple and blue backgrounds particularly in the film’s second half. The movie has been divided into 20 chapters.
The Emperor’s New Groove – 4/5
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix has an excellent spread across the front soundstage, but very little has been done with the rear channels making the mix seem more stereophonic than surround-centric (in fact, a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix is provided). The music (background score by John Debney, songs by Sting and David Hartley) comes across very nicely throughout, and dialogue has been wonderfully recorded and mostly resides in the center channel with some occasional bursts of directionalized dialogue at appropriate moments.
Kronk’s New Groove – 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is much more enveloping than that of the original film (coming five years later, the producers take advantage of advances in surround presentation). The music extends from the fronts through the soundstage and into the rears with authority and yet the mix also retains the entertaining directionalized dialogue that the original film boasted. Dialogue has been nicely captured and is always discernible.
Fans of the film had better hang onto their Collector’s Edition DVD for The Emperor’s New Groove because none of those bonus features have either been ported over to the Blu-ray disc or linked to an internet website (as Disney did with the Fantasia Blu-ray release).
Special Features Rating: 0/5
Promo Trailers (HD): The Little Mermaid, Monsters University, Super Buddies, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Heroes United, among others.
DVD Copies: The Emperor’s New Groove and Kronk’s New Groove have their own separate DVDs stacked on top of each other in the case.
It’s very disappointing that Disney chose not to port over the bountiful bonus features for The Emperor’s New Groove into this new Blu-ray release. The original film looks simply wonderful in this high definition upgrade, but the lack of any bonus material does not do justice to this worthy animated effort from the studio’s vaults.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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