The Emperor Kuzco is one of the most annoying characters ever to have been the lead in a Disney movie, or any other film for that matter, he’s a selfish, self-absorbed and egotistical twat who only cares about himself and has a complete lack of awareness when it comes to how others might feel. So David Spade was perfect casting really, at least at the time the film was made, but in some ways he’s too good at what he does and the character is hard to care for, even when by the end of the movie he has realised his flaws and is a changed man.
He’s also a changed llama too, as after firing his long standing advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) she seeks revenge, and that leads to getting her assistant Kronk (Patrick Warburton) to attempt to poison Kuzco. Luckily for him Kronk is an idiot and brings the wrong liquid, instead giving Kuzco something which mysteriously turns him in to a llama. Then a sort of odd couple movie ensues, because earlier that day Kuzco had decided to destroy the home and village Pacha (John Goodman) lives in, and because this sort of thing is always a little contrived the two team up together, with Pacha deciding to help Kuzco even though he is a right old shit.
Even for Disney it’s a very cartoonish affair, and Pacha and Kuzco ending up in death defying scenarios which would brutally kill anyone if they really happened, with the two falling to their doom and either being dashed against the side of a cliff or falling hundreds of feet in to the water a good couple of times. Such silliness is sometimes amusing and sometimes a little repetitive, and though seeing Kuzco suffer isn’t the worst thing in the world given how annoying he is, it’s surprising how little innovation is found within the film until the ending.
Credited to eleven writers, perhaps that’s the problem, and way too many cooks not only spoiled the broth but they threw it on the floor and pissed in it as well. There’s some really funny moments when it goes extremely over the top, and the surreal elements, such as the squirrel getting its revenge on Kuzco by popping a balloon and waking the sleeping jaguars, along with the animal transformations found in the very bizarre finale, is when the movie is at its best. But a lot of the time it just trots along in a mundane manner, a strange mix of the ridiculous and the dull, and it just doesn’t work.
It’s a shame this wastes such a talented cast, Warburton, Kitt and Goodman are all on top form, and the final fifteen minutes are full of inspired lunacy, with the film suddenly delivering on the promise it occasionally hinted at during its running time. But because a good chunk of it is poor and uninspired it falls in to the category of Disney films that are something of a misfire, perhaps worth watching the once if bored but definitely not worth ever revisiting.