Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not Feeling the Groove This Time

Hi, my name is Lisa Draski, and I watched a straight-to-DVD Disney sequel. I hang my head in shame.

What was I thinking? I've only watched two of them. The first was the sequel to The Little Mermaid, which I actually BOUGHT right when it came out because I love the original so much. I thought, "It's more of my favorite characters and story - how can it go wrong?" But oh boy, did it go wrong. Very wrong. Since then, I've avoided the sequels like the plague that they are, but when I was making my list of Disney favorites recently, I became intrigued by the existence of Kronk's New Groove, the follow-up to the brilliant The Emperor's New Groove.

There's a sort of reverence surrounding most Disney films, like it's sacrilegious to tamper with them and exploit their purity, magic, and artistry to turn a quick profit and give parents some inconsequential fluff to distract children for a little while. I agree with that sentiment. Oh, I want to clarify that I'm just using "straight-to-DVD" as a blanket term for these sequels; I'm aware that the format has changed and that Disney used to produce their poison on VHS, which was known as "straight-to-video" once upon a time. Anyway, even though The Emperor's New Groove is one of my absolute favorites, it came a lot later than the "classics" and has a more irreverent tone itself, so there wasn't the same choir of angels surrounding it. Plus, I discovered that the entire cast of the first one was back: David Spade, Eartha Kitt, John Goodman, and Patrick Warburton. Plus, they added John Mahoney and Tracey Ullman. It sounded awesome. Even if the movie sucked, at least I could still revel in the marvelous voice work of these amazing actors.

Well, the sucking eclipsed the reveling, and there wasn't even much to revel IN. David Spade is in the movie for about two minutes tops, and Eartha Kitt for about ten-ish. That's pitiful. They were my favorite parts of the first one, so that was a huge disappointment. Spade and Kitt are still terrific and funny in their measly roles, and Kitt even gets to belt out a song in a really elaborately staged musical number. She rocks and is a total diva. Unfortunately, the song is lousy, and all the flash in the world can't cover that up. Patrick Warburton is Kronk, and thus the star of this flop. He's a great actor and does consistently outstanding voice work (he's been on Family Guy since the beginning), and he's wonderful here. Kronk is a fantastic sidekick, but he shouldn't be the main character. He's kind of annoying in large doses, even though he's a very endearing, sweet, funny creation. Despite Warburton's best efforts, Kronk cannot carry a movie.

It's a cute enough story. Kronk has gotten away from evil Yzma (Kitt) and is now living out his dream of being a chef. He leads a scout troop, helps the elderly, and is just a really nice person. Everyone loves him, except for his father, at least in Kronk's opinion. His dad, Papi (Mahoney), is coming to visit, expecting to see Kronk's beautiful family and house on the hill, like he had been told. However, this was merely a fabrication to placate Papi, who had always discouraged his son's cooking, domestic skills, and ability to communicate with squirrels. Kronk has only ever wanted to win his father's approval and get the coveted thumbs-up (apparently the highest praise in his family) from Papi. That's why he lied to him.

Through flashback, the movie reveals that Kronk did have a fantastic house on the hill, but he felt guilty because it was bought with dirty money (Yzma tricked him again), so he gave it away to the old folks and made it into a pretty pimp retirement pad for them. Kronk also had a girlfriend, rival scout leader Ms. Birdwell (Ullman), but that got screwed up, too, again due to his selflessness. Kronk asks Pacha (Goodman, good as usual, and he at least has decent screen time) to borrow his wife and children in order to pose for Papi. When Papi arrives, the whole town, including Emperor Kuzco (yay, another few seconds of David Spade!), tries to help because they love Kronk so much. A whole bunch of them pretend to be his wife and kids, complicating matters exponentially. Did I mention that Papi comes to the restaurant where Kronk works as a chef and that all this happens during a big lunch rush? Uh oh! Today's special: trouble.

So, to cut to the chase, chaos ensues, order is promptly restored, Kronk thought he had nothing but realizes that he actually has everything in the love and support of his friends and in the fulfillment he gets from his work and hobbies, Papi is proud and gives the big thumbs-up, Kronk gets the girl back, a bell rings, and Clarence gets his wings. The end.

The story is okay, but the script is miserable. The movie plods along laboriously and tediously, and except for a few moments here and there, it's not funny at all. It tries too hard to be kooky and random, and fails at that. The original made it seem effortless. There's just nothing special about Kronk's New Groove. I cared at times, and it's occasionally enjoyable, but it's mostly bland and unremarkable. Okay, fine, I'll quit the vocabulary exercise and just spit it out - it's bad.

Kronk's New Groove is such a let-down. I only have myself to blame, I guess. I watched two straight-to-DVD Disney sequels. Well, I quit. Fool me once, Disney, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. But Disney keeps cranking them out, so really, shame on you, Disney. Shame, shame, shame.

Seriously, has there EVER been a good straight-to-DVD Disney sequel? I'm just curious.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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