Why ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ is the Best Disney Film Ever Made

The Emperor’s New Groove is a different breed of Disney film. It evokes pure fun, ditches contrived sentimentality and takes the audience on a ride where the sole purpose is to have fun. While other, more popular films were written by serious, academic screenwriters, you can imagine the writers of The Emperor’s New Groove telling silly jokes, standing on their heads and wearing funny looking hats while brainstorming the most ridiculous of ridiculous cartoon scripts. The film started life as a fable, a sentimental epic like Mulan or Pocahontas, and somewhere along the way it got scrapped and handed to the writers at Disney who just want to have a lot of fun. It has a wonderful voice cast, hysterical jokes and an irresistible sense of mindless joy that should spread to children and adults alike.

Following Emperor Kuzco, an arrogant and selfish ruler (fittingly played by David Spade) who gets betrayed by his royal advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and turned into a Llama. He must use the help of kind-hearted peasant Pacha (John Goodman) to get back to his Kingdom and restore his humanity, while Yzma searches him out to finish him off. It’s a wild ride of a plot, willing to take huge risks with comedy to stand out from the animation crowd. It succeeds; the characters occasionally break the fourth wall to point out plot holes, there are subtle sex jokes a plenty and a memorable sequence with somebody’s shoulder angel and devil. It’s a Disney film that takes creative risks in a way that no other has tried before or since, and should be mentioned as one of the studio’s all time greatest efforts. It has a whirlwind pace that grabs the audience, tosses them around and leaves them feeling dizzy but elated at the end of it. Give me this kind of comedy and pace over The Lion King any day; The Emperor’s New Groove openly rejects the need to bog its audience down with sentimentality. It sets out to have a lot of fun, and I can watch it again and again and still laugh at the same stupid, cheesy, risky jokes.

Did I mention it has Tom Jones in it? Because it does.

Although it did well commercially and has picked up a cult following, The Emperor’s New Groove was never singled out by critics as a true Disney classic. Of course, it has its flaws; a small minority of the jokes fall a little flat, and if you don’t like the eccentric style of the film then you won’t find much to love. However, for someone like me who is constantly a bit sick of such serious, clichéd morality tales from Disney, then take a look at one of the studios’ efforts which tried something a little different, a little new. It rejects the conventions that made Disney the powerhouse of animation it is, it swims against the current to give us something entirely unique, fresh and exciting. For me, it is the greatest Disney film ever made; not because it is flawless (it isn’t), but because it is the only Disney film I can watch and know, with complete certainty, I will have an absolutely joyous experience. You can’t say that about many films in cinema. It inspires fun.

Overrated Movies – Fight Club

Fight Club is one of the kings of the cult movie scene. It’s a now legendary film making effort from David Fincher, who attempted to make a great big social commentary on advertisement and masculinity through a movie about an illegal underground fighting club. It has bizarre subliminal messages layered through it, intricate surprises throughout its plot and a twist that can knock the wind out of you. And yet there is something missing from Fight Club. It’s a movie that thinks a lot of itself but can’t quite justify its own superior attitude. People love it because it isn’t what it seems; it takes the audience on a journey where they question the perceived realities of the world of the film and even our own world too. It sets out to confuse, to ensnare the audience in twists and turns, but it loses itself to its own smug nature. Every time I watch it I become less and less impressed; it is a movie that has a limited impact through its messages, as the way it conveys these ideas become more and more tiresome.

That’s not to say it’s a bad movie. Fincher directs Fight Club with a swagger and style that is almost irresistible, a confidence that infects the audience and sets them for the rollercoaster ride that is to follow. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton put in really solid performances as two men who form an underground fighting ring together, letting themselves and other men express their own masculinity as to escape from boring, uninspiring lives. The film got a lot of public hate when it was first released, and become one of the most talked about and controversial films of the 1990’s, with many comparing its portrayal of violence and impact on culture as similar to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. However, exactly like A Clockwork Orange, Fight Club isn’t about violence at all. Both are social commentaries; Kubrick talks about conformity, Fincher about advertisement and the false nature of society. The problem with Fight Club isn’t the graphic nature of the violence, it’s the smugness of the whole thing. The Internet adore in telling us the intricate and hidden messages in the film; “Oh, Fincher has put a Starbucks cup in each frame! Genius!” they shout. Or how about “There are single frames of Brad Pitt and naked women in the film! Blink and you’ll miss it! Genius!” cry another bunch.

Helena Bonham-Carter only exists in the movie as a device to help Fincher reveal the twist.

This is the exact problem with Fight Club. It demands to be appreciated; it begs to be praised through its clever techniques that in the end, do little more to distract the audience from the nonsensical and iffy plot. I love David Fincher as a director, but he is at his best when he is at his most subtle. This is why Se7en works so well, another Fincher film which is infinitely superior to Fight Club. In that, Fincher subtly creates an oppressive atmosphere through the location of ‘the city’, a nameless bustling American place that reeks with death, decay and horror. It almost tells the story for Fincher, as the place itself corrupts the characters as its oppression slowly seeps into the audience too. There is nothing of that craft in Fight Club, instead here Fincher disappointingly relies on cheap camera tricks to allow the audience to get caught up in it all. They’ve never seen anything like it, and it is delivered with enough confidence for them to like it more than they should. Fight Club is an excellent film at times, but a masterpiece? Never.

Interstellar-The Review

I remember when I was a humble Christopher Nolan fan-boy. I used to hang onto every scene, every shot, every word of his films, my eyes glazing over with this romanticized view that here in front of me was the work of the perfect film maker. Memento was baffling and wonderful, The Dark Knight was the perfect superhero movie and Inception was the revolution Hollywood had been waiting for. Now I’m older, wiser and sadly less susceptible to hand out praise and love wherever I can. I now have a critic’s eye; a horrible condition in where I can’t enjoy anything but the most perfect cinematic creation. I want to love Interstellar. I am absolutely desperate to lavish it with praise, to run down the street shouting about how Nolan has equaled Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. To be doing that however would be to ignore the flaws that seep out of Interstellar, making it an imperfect epic that may even prove unsatisfying to the most devoted of Nolan lovers.

Interstellar takes place in the near-ish future, where the world is polluted and dying, leaving reluctant astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to leave his children behind in order to find a new planet for the human race. To reveal anything other than this would be a huge spoiler, the film twists and turns the audience around it’s finger as the characters venture deeper and deeper into space, exploiting every visual effect Nolan has as a result. And wow, what special effects they are. They are Interstellar’s pièce de résistance, a spectacular means of storytelling that evoke fond memories of 2001 as a result. Of course, some may say that Kubrick’s classic film is too easy a comparison to make, but Nolan consistently pays homage to the King of science-fiction flicks. Forget science-fiction, Nolan almost dips his toe into the art of surrealism with bizarre on screen images that can be as bizarre and as confusing as they are beautiful. The ambition on Nolan’s part is absolutely staggering; he is trying things nobody else dares to touch, chucks the rule book out of the window and decides to really attempt a proper tribute to the greats. He doesn’t get it all right, but the ambition on show is nothing short of jaw-dropping. He is miles ahead of modern Hollywood.

It’s a shame then that Interstellar falls down on some of it’s most basic tropes. It is horribly sentimental at times, the emotion getting shoved down the audience’s throats with all the grace of a hammer to the face. Nolan tries to juggle the journey of the astronauts with the basic struggles of the people left behind on earth, and it all gets a bit messy, considering the cuts of shots represent light years of distance. We can’t connect to the individual struggles if we only linger on their stories for a second or too before whizzing back over to the other side of the universe; Interstellar‘s vast sense of scale often proves it’s downfall. Not enough of the emotion properly connects over the bloated running time, and by the end you’re confused, frustrated and bit disappointed overall. 2001: A Space Odyssey is almost famous for it’s lack of emotion, instead concentrating on themes of humanity and the wonder of the universe. Kubrick didn’t need real characters to tell his story. Nolan couldn’t resist.

Best Bit

Some of the CGI created shots in space are absolutely extraordinary, a feat of cinema that should be viewed in 70mm IMAX if possible. The gasps of the audience were only matched by the sound of my own. Truly one of the great technical marvels in film-making of the past few years.

Worst Bit

Having to constantly, rapidly switch between deep space and earth is absolutely exhausting and messy, while the ending is just this kerfuffle of different ideas and plot-ends that don’t really go together. It’s akin to seeing a toddler try to force two different pieces of a jigsaw together; Nolan got a bit too ambitious for his own good.

Overall

Not many director’s in cinema today would have the guts to try what Christopher Nolan has with Interstellar, and for that alone he deserves huge credit. He has tried to bring the surrealistic and wondrous science-fiction from days long gone back into Hollywood, and although he ultimately fails, he gives it an almighty effort which it is hard to imagine anybody else pulling off. Incredibly admirable, staggeringly ambitious, but not the masterpiece it sought to be.

3/5