|The Road To El Dorado
2000 - PG - 83 Mins.
|Director: Eric Bergeron, Don Paul
|Producer: Brooke Breton, Bonne Radford
|Written By: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
|Starring: Kevin Kline
Kenneth Branagh, Rosie Perez, Armand Assante, Edward James Olmos
|Review by: James O'Ehley
The less you know about Hernando Cortez (1485–1547), the Spanish conqueror of Mexico, and that whole sad little episode of history, the better your chances of enjoying "The Road to El Dorado".
Making a musical animated comedy about Cortez back then would have been like making one about Adolf Hitler today – just not on, unless your name happens to be Mel Brooks I suppose. A few hundred years in-between and an abysmal lack of historical knowledge amongst the general populace (many American teenagers today believe that Germany was America’s partner during World War II, for instance) have made much of history fair game for Hollywood.
Thus, Fox studios can make an animated movie about how unfairly the genial Romanoffs were treated by the unthankful Russian populace back in their revisionist “Anastasia” a few years back (people don’t usually have revolutions because they’re bored or anything). Also, Disney could rewrite some of the rougher edges of American history with “Pocahontas”.
Is Hollywood running out of ideas that they should resort to unlikely material such as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and the Bible (“Prince of Egypt”) to make movies?
I don’t know, but to be honest historical inaccuracy isn’t exactly a problem in "The Road to El Dorado", the 2000 animated effort by DreamWorks that simply sank without a trace at the box office. (DreamWorks also produced "Prince of Egypt", "Antz" and the much more successful "Shrek".)
That may be because of the crappy Elton John songs in it – none of them as catchy or memorable as those he and lyricist Tim Rice wrote for Disney’s classic "Lion King". Or maybe it’s because traditionally animated movies no longer capture audiences’ imaginations like they used to, especially in comparison to computer-generated movies such as the "Toy Story" movies, "Bug’s Life" and "Ice Age".
All of which is a pity. I still love old-fashioned animation, and sometimes feel that using computer-generated animation in some movies is more of a gimmick sometimes. "The Road to el Dorado" follows the adventures of two likeable rogues and small-time conmen (voiced by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh) who accidentally stow away upon Cortez’s sail ship as it sets sail for the New World.
The stowaways are immediately incarcerated, but manages to escape before they can be sold off as slaves (that Cortez, hey?). They come across the legendary city of gold, El Dorado, where they are mistaken for gods by the locals. Instead of disabusing the locals of their mistaken notions, our heroes play along, pretending to be gods – so that they can steal some gold.
The more literary types amongst you will recognise this as being the plot of Rudyard Kipling's story, "The Man Who Would Be King", which was incidentally made into a movie starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine.
However, this movie would remind moviegoers most of Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove” in that they are both more cartoon-y than most of the animated movies of recent years. Both are also very goofy and a lot of fun to be honest too. Light-weight to be sure, but still enjoyable. (Besides, I just loved the way they drew that horse - picture hereby included.
Briskly paced with lots of banter, the ending may be anticlimactic, but this is a road that both kids and their parents won’t be loathe to take. (Just a pity about those Elton John sings which are almost as obtrusive as the rubbish Phil Collins songs used in Disney’s "Tarzan" movie.)