The Road to El Dorado (2000)

(Netflix Streaming, July 2017) An unfortunate collision occurred in the making of The Road to El Dorado, as an adventure film for all audiences crashed into a Disney kid’s movie. What could have been a rousing adventure tale became watered down in a series of musical numbers, kid-level plotting, easy answers and less-than-distinguished characters. At a basic level, this Dreamworks Animation production still works: There’s some fun in seeing two con artists make their way to El Dorado, being hailed as gods (albeit from someone with a Machiavellian intention) and dealing with the situation. Never mind the unbelievable coincidences required to get there: as a comedy, it works. But the musical numbers stop the movie in its tracks, the characters aren’t as distinct as they should be, much of the complexity of the story seems watered down for accessibility and kids friendliness—another rewrite could have worked wonders. As it is, it suffers from comparisons with the similarly themed contemporary The Emperor’s New Groove, which worked at a superior level in integrating Central-American imagery with rapid-fire comedy. I’m not saying that The Road to El Dorado is a waste of time—Chel’s character and her resolutely practical approach redeem much of the film—but it’s not quite what it could have been.

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