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El Dorado is a city made, they say, of solid gold.
1519 is the year in which these escapades unfold,
In which two crooks make a journey to the New World from the Old.
Winning bets with loaded dice, Miguel and Tulio scam a map
Of the wonders of the New World from a less than pleasant chap.
When their cheating is discovered, they escape…into a trap.
Captives on Cortés’s vessel, they are baffled for a while,
Till Cortés’s horse Altivo lets them out in clever style.
All three end up in a lifeboat, floating mile after mile.
When they reach the New World’s beaches (with the map still close at hand),
They go on a grand adventure through this new, exotic land,
And they locate El Dorado, though not quite as they had planned.
They are taken to the city by the natives through a cave
And mistaken for two deities, omnipotent and brave,
So they play along and act as they think gods perhaps behave.
Chel, a native girl who’s willing to share all she knows about,
Sees the two are only faking, but agrees to help them out
If they also take her with them on their quick departure route.
Tannabok, the friendly chief, provides festivities that night,
While a priest named Tzekel-Kan thinks gods desire a bloody rite,
And his only wish is sacrificing everyone in sight.
Tulio just wants to lie low, but not so with brash Miguel.
He runs off into the city to have fun and thinks it’s swell,
While his partner Tulio begins to fall in love with Chel.
When an armadillo helps them win a hip-ball kind of sport,
Tzekel-Kan sees through their subterfuge and cuts their party short
By attacking with a giant metal jaguar of some sort.
Once he’s fallen in a whirlpool and has found Cortés to praise,
Our two heroes disagree and choose to go their separate ways.
Tulio decides to leave with Chel; his former buddy stays.
News arrives that Tzekel-Kan is guiding that conquistador
To the city, so the duo quickly gain back their rapport.
They want nobody to threaten El Dorado anymore.
So they sacrifice their gold and all the servants and the praise,
And they lock out Tzekel-Kan, Cortés, and all their violent ways,
And our heroes ride away to find another trail to blaze.

The Road to El Dorado is a musical adventure that attempts to be another Tarzan or Prince of Egypt, with some good music, exciting action, and some more mature content than most cartoons, but only halfway succeeds. It follows Tarzan’s example in having most of the Elton John/Tim Rice songs being sung by a singing narrator and only one number actually sung by the characters. While these songs are fun and enjoyable, they all end up sounding similar and don’t have the distinct memorableness of the artists’ work in The Lion King. Still, they clarify the mood for many scenes and complement the lively and colorful animation, which is almost as good as in the much more acclaimed The Prince of Egypt. The real pleasure of the film is in the two leads. Kenneth Branagh as Miguel and Kevin Kline as Tulio play off each other so well and their voices and unique inflections so fit their characters that the movie would suffer without them. They make some already humorous lines hilarious and turn the film into a “Road” movie worthy of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s classics.

While many reviewers objected to the weak plot and secondary characters, I take issue with its rewriting of history. The film presents the natives of El Dorado, who I can only assume are Aztecs, as peace-loving folk under the tyranny of a single bloodthirsty high priest. It lightly references the ritual killings of thousands of innocents and totally ignores the hostile lifestyle of the real Aztecs, who actively captured victims from neighboring areas for their sacrifices. Not to mention, there are some obvious flaws, such as Chel’s New York-ish accent, the isolated El Doradoans somehow speaking the same language as the visiting Spaniards, or the existence of a map to a legendary city that has supposedly never been discovered. Despite these weaknesses, The Road to El Dorado is another fun family film that, like many of the animated movies on the list lately, deserved a better box office turnout than it received.

Best line: (Tulio to Miguel) “The little voice, remember? Just imagine for a moment that you have one. Now, what would it be saying about Chel?”  (Miguel) “Um…” [he purrs romantically]

VC’s best line: (Tulio) “Your horse bit me in the butt!” (said as only Kevin Kline could say it)

Artistry: 4
Characters/Actors: 6
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 6
Originality: 5
Watchability: 5
Other (aforementioned flaws): -2
TOTAL: 30 out of 60

Tomorrow: #322: Ice Age

© 2014 S. G. Liput