I don't know. I mean, I give Disney credit for trying with movies like this one. But somehow, they just didn't hit the mark. I blame too many screenwriters, personally.

The Emperor's New Groove is Walt Disney Studios' umpteenth animated film, released in the United States in December 2000. The film starts out with a narrative introduction by David Spade's character, Emperor Kuzco, showing us himself as a llama halfway through the story before producing a flashback to the start of it.

This, for me, was the source of the whole problem. The writers chose to avoid the whole difficult task of actually introducing us to the characters by having the Kuzco/narrator do the job instead, telling us who all the major players are and why they're important. It forces the characters to conform to whatever roles Kuzco/narrator dictates for them rather than letting us get to know them through their words and actions.

The rest of the movie is mostly the lead four characters -- Kuzco, the peasant Pacha, the evil advisor Yzma, and her dumb hunk assistant Kronk -- chasing each other around while Kuzco is rescued by Pacha over and over again until he finally figures out that being nice can be a Good Thing. It's sweet, I suppose, but cliched unless someone provides a little more backstory for everyone. And no one ever does.

The real clincher for me, though, came near the end. During a comical chase scene, Yzma and Kronk launch their chariot/carriage/whatever off a cliff and -- surprise! -- it sprouts wings. Then it's struck by lightning and drops to the bottom. Then, a minute later inside the castle, they suddenly appear unharmed. Yzma is asked how she survived. She asks Kronk how they survived. Kronk points to a map of their travels and points out that, realistically, they should have died at the bottom of the cliff. Yzma shrugs it off with an "oh well" and goes on with her dialogue. As a reviewer friend of mine is fond of pointing out, when the characters are questioning the logic of the plot, you really have a problem.

To give Disney studios credit, though, this movie is genuinely hilarious, start to finish. Comic timing and settings are exploited every second of the film. Jokes that you never expect to see pop up and leave you practically rolling. But it's all Warner Bros. humor. Films like Toy Story and A Bug's Life (bless you, John Lasseter) I can smile at over and over. In this movie, once you know the joke is coming, it's a lot harder to laugh.

On the whole, an okay flick. But it's no The Lion King or Aladdin. They left the adults out of the audience this time.