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The Emperor's New Groove/Kronk's New Groove (2000/2005)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/11/2013

All Ratings out of

The Emperor's New Groove
Extras: No Extras

Kronk's New Groove:
Audio: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/16/2013

The new millennium was an interesting time of experimentation for Disney animation. As expressed in my recent review for Lilo & Stitch, Disney was taking some chances and the early 2000s brought us some unusual ideas. For decades, Disney had stuck to adapting classic stories and fairy tales with the occasional original story thrown in here and there. But, the turn of the century brought us the aforementioned Lilo & Stitch, Dinosaur, and the undeniably quirky The Emperor's New Groove. Instead of being a take on The Emperor's New Clothes, this was an odd exploration of South American culture.

The Emperor's New Groove focuses on Kuzco (voiced by David Spade), the young king of an ancient empire. (The Incans?) Kuzco is very spoiled and entitled, abusing his power and dismissing those who don't please him. For example, a peasant named Pacha (voiced by John Goodman), is summoned to the palace so that he can be informed by Kuzco, in person, that he's being thrown off of his land in favor of Kuzco's summer home. Kuzco's advisor, Yzma (voiced by Earth Kitt), is an elderly witch who wants to overthrow Kuzco. She invites him to dinner, but due to the ineptitude of her assistant, Kronk (voiced by Patrick Warburton), instead of being poisoned, Kuzco is turned into a llama. Kronk attempts to get rid of Kuzco, but he winds up on Pacha's cart. Upon returning home, Pacha discovers the talking llama and agrees to help Kuzco get back to the palace, despite the fact that Kuzco doesn't seem trustworthy. As the pair make their way across the mountains and through the jungles, a friendship begins to form, but they will still have to avoid Yzma.

David Spade as a South American talking llama, huh? Well, that certainly is different. At its core, The Emperor's New Groove is a fish-out-of-water story combined with an unlikely buddy film, but this is all wrapped up in an unusual package which give it a unique personality.

For starters, Spade makes no attempt at an accent and, similar to Jack Black in Kung Fu Panda, Kuzco sounds just like David Spade, complete with his inflections and eccentricities. This should give you an idea of the kind of attitude this film has. And if that doesn't, the fact that an animated version of Tom Jones signs the opening song. Sure, animated Disney films had had comedy in the past, and some of Aladdin, thanks to Robin Williams, was loose, but The Emperor's New Groove is really out there at times, and this helps to separate it from the pack. The movie is irreverent and goofy, as it offers both physical comedy and some great one-liners. Patrick Warburton really steals the show as Kronk (more on that below) and the movie harkens back to much older cartoons in the scenes where Kronk has an angel and a devil on his shoulders.

I feel certain that there are purists who felt that The Emperor's New Groove went too far in pushing back against what could be considered the stuffy Disney reputation. But, at a time when Pixar was taking over and other animation companies were emerging, it's not surprising that Disney wanted to do something different. The ending drags a bit and the silliness won't be to the liking of some, but The Emperor's New Groove is a fun movie which has great art design and arguably the funniest llama in movie history.

The Emperor's New Groove earns a "me likey" on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image is stable, revealing no issues with the animation and the depth is good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects aren't demo quality, but they are nicely detailed and really add to the action segments. The same goes for the subwoofer effects, which are palpable but not room-shaking.

Nobody loves a direct-to-video sequel quite like Disney and five years after the release of The Emperor's New Groove, we get The Emperor's New Groove 2: Kronk's New Groove. The story is set an indeterminate amount of time after the first film. Kronk (voiced by Patrick Warburton) now owns and runs the restaurant which was prominently featured in The Emperor's New Groove. He loves to feed the villagers, especially the residents at the old folk's home. However, Yzma (voiced by Eartha Kitt) returns and tricks Kronk into a plot to close the home. Following this, Kronk takes his Chipmunk Scout troop to camp, where he meets Ms. Birdwell (voiced by Tracey Ullman) and is immediately smitten with her. Unfortunately, they will be pitted against one another in the camp games.

Put mildly, Kronk's New Groove is a weird movie...and not weird like The Emperor's New Groove. As noted above, Kronk is a stand-out in the first film, so it's not exactly surprising that he would get his own spin-off. It's the structure and the story of the movie which is odd. This feels like a long pilot for a show which never materialized (which is odd, as The Emperor's New School, a TV series, debuted on Disney Channel the following year). The story involving Yzma and the story set at camp both involve Kronk, but otherwise they are completely separate. It's as if someone took two episodes of a show and then placed them in a wrap-around story. In addition, Kuzco and Pacha make appearances here, but both are brief and short, almost as if they felt the need to remind us which movie Kronk was from.

Having said that, Kronk's New Groove has some nice moments. Patrick Warburton is a matter at voice-over (as he apparently never goes home) and he brings an incredible amount of personality and humor to Kronk. Most of the jokes here are at the expense of Kronk's intelligence and the movie brings back the angel and devil routine. While it's not as clever and funny as The Emperor's New Groove, Kronk's New Groove does have its moments and it's certainly one of the better Disney sequels.

Kronk's New Groove has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The video here has the same pros and cons as most Disney sequels when presented on Blu-ray Disc. The image is nearly flawless and the colors look great, but the HD transfer reveals the lack of detail in the backgrounds and a certain 2Dness (for lack of a better term) to the animation which clearly separates it from its theatrical brethren. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a nicely detailed track, and we get nearly constant surround and subwoofer effects to assist the on-screen action. The stereo effects show good separation, alerting us to off-screen sounds.

The The Emperor's New Groove/Kronk's New Groove Double-feature Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.