My nine-year-old son's favorite movie is The Emperor's New Groove. I don't mean that he just "really likes it" or would prefer it over most other movies. If it was up to Alex, he'd watch that DVD every day. Several times a day. Without stopping. So when he heard that the sequel, Kronk's New Groove, was zipping its way to our house, he was naturally excited. Not so much so for ol' dad. While I like the original movie, (well, the first 50 or 60 times I saw it at least) there haven't been any direct-to-DVD releases from Disney that I've really enjoyed. Then again, the original cast was reunited for this effort, which is a big plus, and Kronk was one of my favorite characters in the original. Maybe it wouldn't be too bad. When all is said and done, this movie isn't horrible, it just isn't very good.
Kronk (Patrick Warburton), if you'll recall, was Yzma's (Eartha Kitt) strong but dim henchman in the first fim. Well now Kronk is in trouble: His father is coming to visit him and Papi is under the impression that Kronk is very successful, living in a big house on top of a hill with his wife and children. How did his father come to believe that? Well Kronk sort of told him. All Kronk wants out of life is a "thumbs-up" from his father, and now it looks like he'll never get it.
As Kronk tells the waitress at the dinner where he works, he used to have a huge house. Delivering lunches one day he ran into Yzma again. She has rebuilt her workshop and has been making potions again. This time she's created a potion of youth, one that will make the drinker young again, or so she claims. She needs Kronk to help her sell it though, since people don't really trust her. He agrees and gets very rich in the process. The only problem is that the potion really doesn't work.
In the next story, Kronk relates how he fell in love with the perfect woman, and lost her due to his competitive nature. While at a Chimpmunk camp, Kronk is sure his troop will win top honors, until he meets the very competent competition, Ms. Birdwell (Tracey Ullman). The two have a lot in common, and soon fall for each other, but Kronk has pushed his troops a little too hard, and they'll do anything to win. Even cheat.
This film started out hilarious. There's a giant cheese explosion and some good jokes in the first minutes that had both myself and my children laughing pretty hard. Unfortunately it starts going downhill after three of four minutes.
The script was really a jumbled mess. They tried to tell three stories in the movie (Yzma's youth potion, Kronk and Ms. Birdwell, and Kronk facing his father) in just an hour and 15 minutes. There's just too much plot in this show aimed at children, and it pushed out all of the jokes. That's what made the original so enjoyable, and humor is mostly missing from this film.
On top of that, the story wasn't told linearly. It worked in the first film since they kept it simple; they stated in the middle of the movie, told the beginning, and then proceeded to the end. In this movie they start near the end, have a flashback, another flashback inside of the first flashback, a flash forwards, another flashback, a flash forwards again, catch up with the main story, and then end it all. If that sounds confusing and muddled, that's only because it is. This was a necessarily complex film, and it didn't have to be. Had they simplified the story a lot and added a little more humor this offering would have been a lot stronger.
One nice thing is that the original cast is back, such as it is. While it's true that John Goodman and David Spade reprise their rolls from the original film, they have very small parts this time around. They aren't even supporting actors, more like cameos.
Patrick Warburton does do a wonderful job. He was one of the highlights in the original movie, and he does just as good of a job in this picture. He really brings the good hearted but simple minded Kronk to life, and his inflection while he delivers his lines is often hilarious. Eartha Kitt is also great as Yzma. Her voice is deliciously evil and the film is always interesting when her character is on screen.
Being a direct to video feature, Disney didn't spend nearly as much
on this as they would have spent of a theatrical release. Because
of that, they had to cut some corners on the animation. While it's
not overly cheap or badly done, the quality of the show isn't up to that
of the earlier feature.
This DVD comes with a good number of audio options. There are 5.1 tracks in English, French and Spanish, as well an English dts mix. For my primary viewing I used the dts track, and spot checked the English 5.1. There wasn't a huge difference between the two; they both sounded very good. The musical numbers were very dynamic and engulfing, which added a lot to these sections. The crashes and sound effects were also forceful and fit the movie well. There wasn't any distortion or other audio defects. A nice sounding disc.
The anamorphic widescreen image (1.78:1) was also very good. The lines were tight and clean, and the colors were very bright and full. Blacks were solid and even, and the details came through clearly. On the digital side, things also looked good. Aliasing, something that usually plagues animation was absent as were other compression artifacts.
There are two games included on this disc: Kronk's Brain Game and Pyramid Scheme. In the first, the player has to help Kronk get his projects finished before his father arrives. This is very funny, with Kronk coming up some pretty hilarious ways to do his chores. The second is a trivia game based on the movie.
There is also a featurette, Backstage Disney: How to Cook a Movie. This 8 minute bonus is hosted by Patrick Warburton, and features the directors Saul Andrew Blinkoff and Elliot M. Bour describing how an animated film is made. This is geared towards children, but is still entertaining.
When all is said and done, the problem with this movie is that the plot just isn't that interesting and that there aren't enough laughs in it. As soon as the disc ended, my son who's a huge fan of the original turned to me and said: "It wasn't that funny." The jumbled narrative structure and the lack of a solid threat that kids could follow really doomed the film. If you have a youngster who's a fan of the original, this would make a good rental, but it's really not worth buying.