The Film (4/5)
When I saw a child/teenager I spend my weekends, and frankly way too much of my spare time in video stores looking for the latest bit of horror, sci-fi, cult or classic piece of cinema I had yet to discover. My goal was to work in one of these domains of video renter-ship, and assist patrons in finding awesome films they would otherwise not find. The only problem is the local Mom and Pop shops in my town closed down, and the two franchise stores Video Library and Blockbuster Video would not hire anyone under 18. Of course, being a fan of horror and cult releases it became my goal to work at Video Library, who had an outstanding selection of horror titles (over the course of 5 summers I eventually saw them all culminating with Witchcraft 7 **ugh** on my 18th Birthday, and displayed films in uncensored cuts. This was in opposition to Blockbuster, whose selection was relegated to mostly newer titles, and a wretched archival film selection.
The day I went to apply at Video Library was the day I came back from a 10 Day Vacation, and they were closed for business. A few months later, I did end up with a job at Blockbuster, and it was a pretty crappy job. The selection didn't offer any titles I hadn't seen, and they played an annoying trailer reel advertising bad movies, inter cut with Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears videos, these in addition to advertisements for various types of candies, and sodas. However, we were allowed to pop on ACTUAL movies over the store monitors if they were G rated.
One day one of my co-workers had discovered a newly released Disney flick amongst all the dreck that we were renting at the time. That film was the Emperor's New Groove. Not being in the mood to hear Oops I Did It Again for the millionth time, I agreed to view the film on this particularly slow night, and what I saw immediately impressed me.
Disney went through a sort of renaissance in the late 80's and early 90's from the Little Mermaid through to the Lion King. After this short lived period, they started producing decent animated features like Mulan, Hunchback of Notre Dame, but nothing truly superb, and most of them fell into the musical feature template that had worked so well for Disney in the 90's. I personally had grown tired of that Disney formula. Emperor's New Groove did away with that. It wasn't a musical, it was a comedy with a more modern sensibility. It felt like the Mouse House had moved beyond their 90's formula, and were looking into the future. Sadly, I was wrong. It was not a hit, and would be relegated to a cult title amongst animation/Disney fans.
The Emperor's New Groove tells the story of Kuzco voiced wonderfully by David Spade, the Emperor of an Incan society who is spoiled rotten. One day after he decides to demolish the village of Pacha (John Goodman) to make way for his summer home, a witch who he kept as an advisor turns him into a llama. He is taken to be killed by the Witch's assistant Kronk who rather then kill him frees him in the wilderness. He then meets up with Pacha, who agrees to help him find a way to restore his humanity, and his throne, but only in exchange for keeping his village intact.
The period between Emperor's New Groove and Wreck-It-Ralph had some decent to classic films from Disney Animation, and yet my favorite of them all is Emperor's New Groove. It is a fun movie with a solid pacing. The voice acting is impeccable, every single character is well acted by a cast really giving it's all. The film has a great sense of humor, and I'll be honest the film still gets a few laughs out of me over a decade later, and I am certainly glad it has now been revisited on Blu-ray.
Emperor's New Groove looks absolutely fantastic on this Blu-ray edition which presents the film in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The colors really pop from the screen, and detail is greatly increased from prior DVD editions of the film. I did notice some minor banding issues, and while colors are bright for the most part there are some minor issues where the transfer does appear slightly washed out.
The audio is presented in a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 mix that sounds quite good for what it is. The dialogue comes through nice and clear as does the music and FX. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Honestly, the Blu-ray edition has 0 extras. The DVD's port over all extras from prior DVD editions including making of's and commentaries. I gave a 2/5 to the extras section for the inclusion of second feature Kronk's New Groove, which lets be honest is more of a special feature than a reason to buy the set.
Not a huge hit for Disney in the early 2000's, Emperor's New Groove is a hysterically funny, well- acted, and dare I say it completely underrated film in Disney Animation's filmography. The A/V restoration is not perfect, but it is quite nice and a major improvement over the DVD editions. It does lack extras, but does include a second feature. Recommended.