As someone who works at an academic institution, this is always a crazy time of year. So instead of writing a thoughtful post about an obscure gem I think everyone needs to see, I'm telling y'all to watch a film I've recommended in the past (and one that I will surely recommend again, because yes, Virginia, it's just that funny.)
Here's what I had to say about The Emperor's New Groove back in June of 2014. I stand by pretty much everything I said then, except I think my affection has grown even more fervent.
…which is just another way of say that if it’s been as long a week for you as it’s been for me, I can think of no better antidote than to take some time over the next few days and watch The Emperor’s New Groove.
In this animated Disney adventure, a South American emperor experiences a reversal of fortune when his power-hungry adviser turns him into a llama.
The voice casting is perfect, and the famously-troubled script somehow managed to not only survive the turmoil, but to come out all the better for it. Which doubtless helps to explain its position as far-and-away the most-quoted Disney film in the Susanka household. …thought it’s not the kids’ “Most-Frequently Quoted.” It’s mine.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, because I’m the uber-sarcastic one in the house, not the boys. And it is easily among the most sarcastic of Disney Animation’s many offerings. But there are other things that make it stand out, as well, including having nearly the finest silly side-kick character in the studio’s up-and-down history of silly side-kicks. Plus, its villain that somehow doubles as a silly sidekick herself. And it’s about something unusual, as well. As my friend Steven Greydanus points out, it’s not “a love story, it’s a morality tale.” What about the oft-justified criticism of unnecessary, emotionally-manipulative fragmentation leveled at so many of Disney’s cinematic families? Not here:
Instead of the old Disney anti-family stereotypes (feeble or overbearing father, absent or irrelevant mother, etc.), there’s a refreshingly affectionate portrait of family life. Pacha (John Goodman), the magnanimous peasant who spends most of the movie helping the llama-emperor, is married to ChiCha (Wendie Malick), an attractive, very competent, very pregnant, stay-at-home mother of two; and their kids are adorable — and funny.
It’s not the main point of the story, really, but it is a great family. And that accuracy seeps down into the entire film. In fact, now that I think on it, the number of times “Why do we even HAVE that lever” is actually the absolutely perfect phrase for a House of Seven Boys is mildly troubling. (The ease and alacrity with which I slip into “I’ll put that into a box, and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives… …I’ll smash it with a hammer!” isn’t mildly troubling, though. It’s full-on terrifying.)
So, go ahead. Watch it. With the whole family, or by yourself. I won’t judge you. I’ve been there myself. And it’s that good.
“Don’t tell me. We’re about to go over a huge waterfall.”
“Sharp rocks at the bottom?”
“Bring it on.”