(The Dreamworks-uary logo is shown, before showing clips from The Road to El Dorado. The song "El Dorado" by Elton John plays throughout)
Doug (vo): I'll admit, I didn't see The Road to El Dorado when it first came out because it just sort of looked...cheesy. And, in some ways...yeah, that's kind of what it is, and in other ways, it's actually really smart. But in other ways, the animation is a little lacking, but in other ways, it's fantastic. In other ways, maybe it would've been better as a live-action film, but in other ways, animation is the perfect way to get across some of this comedy, and...oh, boy. Let's just look at the story.
Doug (vo): Two con men, played by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, come across a map for the city to El Dorado. As luck would have it, they wash across the shore where, apparently, the city is located, follow the map, and wouldn't you know it, they discover the lost city. But it's also inhabited, and two of the high priests, of course, confuse the two for gods. Not wanting to overlook what could possibly be the greatest con of their time, they, of course, play the part of the gods and see if there's a way for them to make a boat and take as much of the gold as possible. A young thief named Chel discovers their secret, and she plays along in the facade, trying to show them the ways of the culture, while never revealing who they really are.
Doug (vo): The writing for this movie is very good. Actually, it reminded me a lot of The Princess Bride. In fact, it felt eerily similar. A lot of comedy, a lot of jokes, but also still trying to get across an action-adventure. My problem with the film, I'm really gonna sound weird for this, but the animation is actually too good. What do I mean by that? Well, Princess Bride was funny because it's live-action people acting like cartoon characters. And my theory is that if The Road to El Dorado was actually live-action, it would've been funnier. Now what sense does that make? You have an animated movie where characters are acting like animated characters. Shouldn't that be ideal? Well, the animation looks very similar to Prince of Egypt in that, it's very pretty and it's very nice-looking. But that doesn't always translate into comedy. The weakest part of The Prince of Egypt was the comedy. But that's okay, it wasn't essentially meant to be a comedy first. This is. And if you're gonna do comedy in animation, you better have some damn funny comedic animation. This is where you need Warner Bros. to come in. You need the fast pace, you need the over-the-top reactions. They never allow them to get really big, goofy, over-the-top reactions. I think they were more concerned about making them look handsome. For the most part, it's pretty restrained. I don't know if that totally comes down to them being good-looking, though, because Chel's pretty good-looking and she gets some really funny reactions. But I think in order to make something like this work, you need the team from, say, The Iron Giant or Hotel Transylvania. The people don't move realistically enough for us to mistake them for human, but they don't move cartoony enough in order for us to laugh at them. But with that said, I don't think it's a total abject failure either. Like I said, it is written very well and some of the lines do get a good laugh.
[A scene where the villain confronts the two main characters is shown]
Tzekel-Kan: And you are not...GODS!
Tulio: [beat; to Miguel] You're not a god? How dare you!
Doug (vo): Particularly any point where they have to talk really deadpan, that seems to work.
[Another scene, showing the main characters talking with the chief, is shown next]
Chief: We expected you to be staying with us for the next thousand years.
Tulio: Well, as we say in the spirit world, there's your plan, and then...there's the god's plan.
[Some action sequences are shown]
Doug (vo): The action-adventure stuff seems to work pretty well and it's good to look at, but, again, it's not quite as big or grand as, say, something like Prince of Egypt. It's impressive, don't get me wrong, but when you really want big, grand moments, you need some big, grand animation and some big, grand angles, and, yeah, it's okay. But it could be stronger.
[Several song montages are shown]
Doug (vo): The songs are by Elton John and Tim Rice, the same team that brought us The Lion King, and I think I feel the same way about this as I do about The Lion King, and if you know what I thought about The Lion King, that's not that great. But where I liked at least two songs from Lion King, I can't think of any songs I liked from this one. Hell, I barely even remember them. And even that's sort of strange, because the heroes sing one song, it's obviously a musical number, but then, they never sing any of the others. It's just Elton John singing it. So it's really out of place and odd. Though I will admit, "It's Tough to Be a God" will be in my head for weeks, but in the same way "Hakuna Matata" will be and...yeah, you know what I think of that.
[That song Doug mentioned is shown]
Tulio and Miguel: [singing] It's tough to be a god, but if you get the people's nod, count your blessings, keep them sweet, that's our advice.
Doug (vo): I suppose, in many respects, I probably am being too harsh to this film, because...it's innocent enough. It's got some likeable characters, it's bright, it's colorful, some of the jokes work. You can just tell, though, this film is trying hard to make you laugh often, and if they really wanted that to work, they really needed some different animation. But it's upbeat, it's well-written, it's got some good stuff. I think you could even argue there's some good commentary with the gods trying to play the priests against each other and how religions work and, I don't know, I think there's some in there. And maybe in the end, that's the best way to describe it. There's something there, it's just not fully realized. But for what it is, eh, I'm glad I saw it. I don't think a ton of my time has been wasted or anything. I was kind of amused by kind of a good movie and that's...kind of all I got to say about it. I'd say if you're looking around the video store and there's no other movies you can find, this one might be good to look at, but only if Princess Bride isn't there.
[A scene from the "It's Tough to Be a God" scene is shown as the song "El Dorado" reaches its close]