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By Herb Kane | January 27, 2001

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Chris Gore (, Terry Lawson (Detroit Free Press), Bob Strauss (Los Angeles Daily News), Susan Stark (Detroit News), Desmond Ryan (Philadelphia Inquirer), Stephen Holden (, MaryAnn Johanson (, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) and Loren King (Boston Globe).
* * * * out of 4 stars (G)
The moment my eyes first landed on Emperor Kuzco (voice of David Spade) a human turned into a llama, I thought to myself, “Not groovy.” My initial impression couldn’t have been more wrong.
“The Emperor’s New Groove” is a Disney animated film about an imperious South American teenage emperor who gets turned into a llama by his former administrator, Yzma (Eartha Kitt). Kuzco later hooks up with a peasant, Pacha (John Goodman). The next thing you know, you’re hooked!
Chris Gore ( said Goodman and Spade have great chemistry together: “The two make such a great comedy duo, they should consider doing a live action film together. Simply put, David Spade is on fire the whole movie resulting in tons of belly laughs!”
I think this “chemistry” between Goodman and Spade is what makes this film worthy to watch. Though Spade is especially hilarious, some critics don’t think so.
Terry Lawson (Detroit Free Press) said, “The largest amount of effort seems to have gone into making the humor hip, but Spade’s snide, petulant put-downs are at least as tiresome as those of any actual teenager.”
I don’t know what movie you were watching, Terry, but wasn’t Kuzco a teenager? And aren’t teenagers famous for “snide, petulant put-downs?” Could it be that maybe Kuzco’s character was right on the mark? You sound like a substitute teacher who has had a bad day with the kids. Cheer up and take part in the fun!
Bob Strauss (Los Angeles Daily News) also disliked Spade’s sarcastic humor and said, “And if you’re among the many who just think he’s irritating, well, there’s always ‘The Grinch.'”
I hope you’re talking about the cartoon version of “The Grinch,” Bob. If not, then I have only one thing to say. You don’t need Dr. Suess. You need the “Critic Doctor!” (hint: read my “Grinch” review).
Susan Stark (Detroit News) said, “It’s an amusing movie, but it lacks both the resonant sense of story and the lush visuals of the Disney classic.” Desmond Ryan (Philadelphia Inquirer) adds, “The voices are well cast, but the animation and conception of the film seldom approach the exalted and imaginative level of Disney’s better efforts in the genre.”
What the critics above don’t recognize is that this movie still succeeds without expansive “lush visuals” we normally see in Disney animations such as “The Lion King.” Think about it. “The Emperor’s New Groove” proves you don’t need all the high-tech visuals to bring animated characters to life. To me, this is a great achievement – in both artistry and writing. Some critics got it right:
* “The Emperor’s New Groove” is a timely reminder that animated films don’t have to be grandiose visual circuses with full Broadway scores to entertain.” Stephen Holden (
* “It may not have the same poignant grandeur, but it’s a marvelous reminder of how enthralling — and how genuinely fun — animated movies can and should be.” MaryAnn Johanson (
* “The movie doesn’t have the technical polish of a film like ‘Tarzan,’ but is a reminder that the classic cartoon look is a beloved style of its own.” Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)
Loren King (Boston Globe) summed the movie up best: “‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ is a lively, invigorating comedy: a near-perfect mix of fresh characters, well-cast voices, superb visuals, and a fast-paced, fantasy-adventure plot.”
“The Emperor’s New Groove” was one big groovy surprise. Go see this 4-star flick and have fun!

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