Emperor Kuzco, spoilt and self-centred, is turned into a llama, and needs to rely on a supposedly lowly peasant named Pacha for help (which he wants) and guidance (which he needs) in order to become human again.
Emperor Kuzco isn't bad, not really, but he's as spoilt as they come. When he ticks off Yzma but firing her from her lifelong position as emperor's advisor, she plots to kill him, but it backfires and Kuzco merely gets turned into a llama. One thing leads to another, and Kuzco finds himself miles away from his palace, and with only a peasant named Pacha around to help him. And Pacha is at odds with himself, for although he is a kind-hearted man, he knows that if he returns Kuzco to the palace, the self-centred Emperor will demolish his village. Meanwhile, Yzma and her sidekick Kronk set out to finish the job of removing Kuzco permanently.
Laugh. Laugh laugh laugh. It's one gigantic laugh-o-matic. When I watched this movie for the first time in the cinema, the last ten minutes were nothing but one joke after another, making the laughter continuous and wonderful. And the cinema erupted in applause afterward. Now that was a super adrenaline rush.
Of course, some jokes are recyclable, some are not. A second viewing, or maybe a third, won't pack the same punch as the first, but that's the price to pay. The Emperor's New Groove may not be an epic, but it's a fun ride all the same, with it's own set of charms. First of all, superb characters. The main cast of Kuzco, Pacha, Yzma, Kronk; along with each and every memorable minor character. Secondly, superbly-written dialogue. Thirdly, superbly-storyboarded comic moments. I could go on all day about my fav moments from the movie, and there are loads. I don't think I should even try. It should just be watched.
I have a thing for villains, especially deliciously overblown ones like Hades, Ursula and Cruella de Vil of times past. Yzma fits the bill wonderfully, with some of the best dialogue of the whole movie. “I'll turn him into a flea. A little tiny flea. And then I'll put that flea into a box, and put that box in another box, and I'll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives, I'll smash it with a hammer! It's brilliant brilliant brilliant, I tell you!” And Kronk has to be one of the most lovable of villain sidekicks, ever.
The Emperor's New Groove was originally entitled Kingdom of the Sun, and was planned to be a more epic story, along the same vein as The Lion King. From what I gather, the original concept was to be a more serious journey of self-discovery, and there was even supposed to be a love interest for Kuzco, who would help change him to a better person. (The opening scene where Kuzco checks out the potential brides is a remnant of that original plot.) But for whatever reason, that direction was scrapped during production, and the filmmakers opted instead to make it a tongue-in-cheek comedy.
There is only one real discord in the story. And that is, because it's so funny and manic, the meaningful buddy-buddy story between Kuzco and Pacha becomes a little awkward. I mean, it is sweet in all, and is the main theme of the film, but it feels kinda out of place. Oh, I don't know. Maybe when the filmmakers decide to totally revamp the story, they could not give it detailed planning treatment that would have made the flow better.
Number one scene stealer of the movie? Chicha, Pacha's wife. Smart, sarcastic and sharp as a stick, she r0xx0rs. And she's the first pregnant woman to be seen in a Disney animated feature. Woo hoo!