Movie Magazine International

The Road to El Dorado

USA - 2000

Movie Review By Casey McCabe

You will go to the new animated feature "The Road to El Dorado." You will go because you have children. You'll scan the movie listings and see that it's really your only choice. Afterwards, you'll ask the kids if they liked it and they'll say yeah! because they probably did, and frankly you weren't exactly miserable and it's a kids movie after all so what's the point of complaining?

Well let's find out. DreamWorks assembled a dream team to make this film about two lovable rogues searching for the fabled lost city of gold, only to find something more important...the value of friendship. We have screenwriting aces Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio penning the original story, actors with serious chops like Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Rosie Perez doing voice-overs, musical legend Elton John handling the original songs and of course some of the best animators in the business to make the visuals truly and genuinely stunning.

Now animated kids movies don't have to surprise you, though the good ones often do. You walk in pretty much knowing they will borrow from legend or fairy tail and snip out the tragic irony that used to be the whole point of the story. You'll be able to recognize good and bad immediately via the character's facial hair. And before you can say Free With Purchase at Burger King, at least two animals will appear and turn into sidekicks. The filmmakers will also probably throw in a couple of those coy asides that only parents and guardians will get, a little gift for the people with keys to the Dodge Caravan.

If there's a slight departure in "The Road to El Dorado" it's the decision to make it more of a traditional live action buddy movie; more Hope and Crosby than Beauty and the Beast. Actually, more Sigfried and Roy than Hope and Crosby. The appearance of Rosie Perez's sexy Aztec love interest never quite dismisses the feeling that our two dashing heroes seem made for each other.

But while kids movies don't necessarily have to pack surprises, they absolutely need to be delightful. "The Road to El Dorado" has been so professionally assembled that I can guarantee its competence and safety. Problem is, the film contains not a single moment of pure, inspired delight. And while some kids movies are short because that's just how long the story is, "The Road to El Dorado" seems to feel its way around, then end quickly because it has nowhere else to go. The filmmakers exhibit a keen understanding of just what they need to do to get by.

Am I finished yet? No. Word up to Elton John. Ditch Tim Rice. Go find Bernie Taupin. You guys used to work magic. What you're doing now is rote hypnosis. Related tangent: anyone watching the Oscars notice that Phil Collins himself looked like he didn't think his Oscar was deserved? He's right. Animated kids movies are the last refuge for original music in film, where the songs get to play an evocative and integral role. The wretchedly indistinguishable string of recent award-winning ballads suggest the only criteria is getting lots of airplay on the lamest radio stations in the country.

Back to the point. You will go to the new animated feature "The Road to El Dorado." You will go because you have children. You'll scan the movie listings and see that it's really your only choice.

© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 3/29/00

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