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The Emperor's New Groove Reviews

The spirit of Chuck Jones' classic Warner Bros. cartoons lives again — ironically at Disney, the studio whose nice 'n' sweet theatrical 'toons once represented everything the rebellious WB animators avoided. Like the best Bugs Bunny-Daffy Duck confrontations, this is a rapid-fire parade of smart-aleck wit, self-reflexive playing to the audience, imaginatively sustained extended gags and the kind of wonderfully oblivious comedy-of-manners where it's okay to poison a man, but just don't serve him overcooked spinach puffs. In a mythical, Inca-like land, the fun-loving yet monstrously self-centered teen emperor Kuzco (voice of David Spade) summons village leader Pacha (John Goodman) to the palace for a little bad news: He plans on demolishing Pacha's village in order to build a summer palace. But when Kuzco catches his ambitious advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) attempting to run things behind his back and actually fires her, Yzma plots her revenge. With the "help" of her easily distracted right-hand-man, Kronk (the pitch-perfect Patrick Warburton), Yzma attempts to poison her boss, but due to a labeling error, Kuzco is instead turned into a talking llama and winds up at the home of Pacha, his feisty wife Chicha (Wendie Malick) and their two young kids. Pacha strikes a deal: He'll lead Kuzco back safely through the treacherous jungle if Kuzco will break ground somewhere else. What follows is an uproarious reluctant-buddy comedy, with plot turns that pay such homage to Warner Bros. cartoon conventions, those giant trampolines might as well say "Acme" on them. This wonderful addition to the Disney canon began — and almost ended — as "Kingdom of the Sun," a Prince and the Pauper-like romantic drama. With reportedly one-third of that version completely animated and, by most accounts, not clicking, Disney gave the filmmakers two weeks to either rework it or cease production entirely. The phoenix-from-the-ashes result is a comic masterpiece.