As I walked out of "The Road to El Dorado", something was nagging at me, and
it took me awhile to determine what that was. The movie starts off by being
cute, with all the requisite cutesy little characters present that the kids
should ooh and ahh over; and throughout the middle of the movie it remains
cute, tacking on yet more adorable little characters. Finally, after sitting
through an hour and a half of this, it ends in a very predictable (and cute,
of course) way. In fact, that's all this movie ever was. It was never
interesting, exciting, or awe inspiring in the slightest. This was just one
of those mindless pieces of fluff that studios throw out for the kidlets
every year. I know I should go easy on "The Road to El Dorado" simply
because it's a film aimed at kids, but all the little kids in the theater
looked bored out of their minds as well.
Tulio (Kevin Kline) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) are two con artists on the
run from the authorities and a mob of angry people in Spain. In their haste
to escape, the two find themselves on board Cortes's ship as he heads for
the new world. Cortes discovers them, and he sends them off in a long boat
with only a horse and a map for company. After washing up on the shore of
South America, they find their way to the golden city of El Dorodo. The
friendly residents, led by their jovial (though nameless) chief (Edward
James Olmos) and an evil priest named Tzekel-Kan (Armand Assante), assume
that the visitors are gods and treat them as such. Only a young thief, named
Chel (Rosie Perez), sees through their con and wants in on the action. The
problem is, Cortes is hot on their heels, Tzekel-Kan wants to commit human
sacrifice in their names, and they have to keep up the charade for three
Does that plot sound a little tired and recycled? It certainly felt that way
as I sat, bored out of my mind, waiting for this unbearably cutesy movie to
end. I honestly believe that it was possible to predict what each character
was going to say, long before they said it. I was rather amused by the fact
that this dull movie is so frantically paced. It's as though Bergeron and
Finn knew how boring their material was, and so they tried to bring the
experience to an end as soon as possible. In order to break up the trite and
dull sequences throughout this movie, we are occasionally granted musical
numbers, which seem to go on forever and ever, but do not contribute to the
story in any way. They are also shot in a bizarre, psychedelic manner,
making them appear to be straight out of something from the '60s.
I believe the two primary reasons people are going to see this movie is for
the animation and for Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline. I will say that the
animation used in "The Road to El Dorado" is quite nice, but it's certainly
nothing spectacular. I'd put the animation a notch or two below 1998's "The
Prince of Egypt". The fact that I had just seen a preview for the upcoming
and fantastic looking "Titan A.E." before hand, probably didn't help
matters. As for the star duo involved, I'm sorry to say that they aren't
given much to do in this movie. Anyone could have performed these exact same
roles, and no one would have known the difference. Part of the problem is
that the two sound utterly joyless in their roles, and who can blame them?
Their jokes are few and far between, and the majority of them fall flat.
"The Road to El Dorado" isn't without its high points. The animation is
quite lovely, and there are several truly hilarious scenes. One of the
supporting characters, a little armadillo which follows the heroes by
rolling around and squeaking seemed to delight the kids in the audience, and
even I found him rather amusing. Like I said, this is a clean, wholesome,
safe movie, which I might have expected a bit too much from. It runs only 82
minutes, but it feels much longer. I would recommend it to animation fans
since it is so nice looking, but not really to anyone else. I would
especially warn off history buffs, since the film takes more than a few
liberties with the realities of Cortes's conquests. I give it two and a half
out of five stars.
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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now.
* * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one.
* * * - Okay movie, hits and misses.
* * - Pretty bad, see it only if you have nothing better to do.
* - One of the worst movies ever made. See it only if you enjoy pain.
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem