Road To El Dorado

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Movie Review by Lisa Henshall

Starring (voices of): Kevin Kline, Kenneth Brannagh, Rosie Perez, James Edward Olmos

Directors: Eric Bergeron, Don Paul

If you like Disney but you?d like to try something a little different, then the ROAD TO EL DORADO could be just what you?re looking for. This is a laugh out loud comedy fantasy with very little depth to the characters but a warmth & humour that?s infectious.

The story revolves around a couple of two-bit con-men, Tulio and Miguel (Kline and Brannagh) who, after cheating some burly sailors out of a map to the lost city of El Dorado, accidentally stow away on a ship leaving Spain for the New World.

The sea-voyage is far from easy and threatened with flogging by the Captain, the two escape, nearly drowning in the attempt in waves the size of those in the movie THE PERFECT STORM. They are assisted by the Captain?s horse Altivo who manages to steal nearly every scene he appears in without even speaking – his facial expressions alone deserve an Oscar! When they?re eventually washed up, somewhat improbably and rather conveniently, on the shores of the new world they immediately head off into the interior to search for the city of gold, to pillage what they can and return to Spain as millionaires.

On arrival, however, they are mistaken for God?s by the tribes? High Priest Tzekel Khan (voiced with much gusto by Armand Assante) who believes he can manipulate their arrival to suit his own ends, by usurping the power of the tribes jolly leader Chief Tannabok (James Edward Olmos). Tulio and Miguel play along in their new roles as God?s and the story moves into a comic version of the THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, although of course this being Hollywood you don?t have to worry about anyone coming to a nasty end.

All the leads are well-cast, and one of the most delightful characters is Chel, an ambitious thief, voiced as a husky femme fatale by the wonderful Rosie Perez, who manages to inject the character with bite and wily cunning without raising her voice above a whisper. This was a relief for me, as Perez can often play rather ?screechy? stereotyped latino characters, but Chel has humour, subtlety and is a strong female lead.

As a family movie this is excellent entertainment for all ages, its extremely funny (outrageously so in places) especially Kevin Kline as the scheming Tulio, who apparently ad-libbed a great deal during the recording process and infuses the script with even more one-liners and quips than it already had. The banter between he and Kenneth Brannagh?s dreamer Miguel make for some of the funniest moments in the film, especially with Altivo too. The film is rated PG so may not be suitable for very young children – although nothing nasty actually happens to anyone in the film, but there are plenty of suggestions that something may be about to happen. There is also a somewhat inappropriate ?adult? scene in the latter half of the film, between Chel and Tulio after she seduces him, when they are nearly discovered by Tzekel-Khan rolling around on the floor together – you wouldn?t get that sort of thing in Disney.

The film steers away from being a traditional ?musical?, as all but one of the songs are actually sung by Elton John himself and are not incorporated into the action of the scenes. Tim Rice and Elton John, the team behind THE LION KING are not quite so successful with the music and songs in this feature as there are no obviously memorable numbers or ?hum?able tunes, but for the same reason it actually makes a change as the music acts more like a soundtrack and backdrop instead of taking over the scenes.

The animation is first rate, which is to be expected considering many of the animators from THE LION KING also worked on this feature. The native Indians (presumably Mayans) all look very convincing and distinctively different to the Spanish characters and the water effects looking particularly magnificent with further leaps in new technology assisting the animators in this regard.

The storyline itself is simple and there are few moral issues at stake, this is after all a comedy and not grounded in reality. The most important oversight would seem to be assuming that the Spanish duo would be able to understand and converse with the tribe upon arrival in the New World, without the use of a Babel fish from THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. Tulio and Miguel are the least Spanish sounding Spaniards in the history of movie-making, with neither actor affecting any attempt at an accent??but then perhaps that?s what saves it. This is frivolous fun and nothing more, definitely not meant to be taken seriously – popcorn for the eyeballs!!

4 out of 6 stars