Volume 93, Issue 99

Wednesday, April 5, 2000


El Dorado worth the journey

Catherine Wheel rolls with punches

A Heartbreaking Work lives up to its name

Formula doesn't always succeed

El Dorado worth the journey

©Gazette file photo
"WITH THAT TANK TOP AND THESE EARRINGS, YOU'LL LOOK JUST AS PRETTY AS ANY OTHER GIRL AT THE DRINK. DreamWorks doles out another animated wonder with scantily clad women. That's fun.

By Anthea Rowe
Gazette Staff

The story is one we've all seen before – two inseparable friends stumbling in and out of seemingly endless trouble. Of course, when the movie is an animated one, the misadventures have the potential to be even more wild and ridiculous.

The film's comrades are Tulio and Miguel, two con men who are constantly in search of a quick buck. They happen to procure a map to the fabled city of gold, El Dorado. The remainder of the film documents their quest to find the legendary site.

Once inside the gates of the fantastic golden city, the two are immediately mistaken for gods and worshipped by the city's inhabitants. Tulio and Miguel are befriended by a seductive native named Chel who demands the pair take her with them when they leave El Dorado. Apparently, living a life of opulence in paradise is just too straining on the girl.

The voice of Tulio belongs to actor Kevin Kline, who is best known for his roles in award-winning and memorable films such as A Fish Called Wanda, Dave and more recently, In and Out. Miguel, is brought to life by renowned thespian Kenneth Branagh, who is best known for his knack for adapting, directing and starring in Shakespearean classics such as Henry V and Hamlet. Chel's voice is provided by Rosie Perez (White Men Can't Jump, Fearless).

Unfortunately, in an hour and a half this movie manages to incorporate more clichés than a television sportscaster. It centres around the age-old "buddies through thick and thin" and "seductive woman coming between two best friends" themes. It also harps on the tired moral that friendship is worth more than all the gold in the world. Typically present in any cheesy animated flick are the anthropomorphic animals who are always the funniest characters. In this case, El Dorado doesn't disappoint.

Despite its adherence to animated film traditions, The Road to El Dorado does save some grace which makes it an enjoyable viewing experience. The usual broad-shouldered, muscular, blue-eyed hero role is avoided in favour of two flawed and fumbling scoundrels. As well, the amount of slapstick humour employed throughout the film is minimal and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio deserve credit for not relying on as many clownish gimmicks and spastic mistakes as their Disney counterparts have in the past.

The film also provides a refreshing representation of the female role. Yes, she's still scantily clad and flirtatious, but also uncharacteristically intelligent and independent, compared to other animated female leads. She's the closest thing to a modern woman that animated film has produced.

The dialogue is fast-paced and energetic. Unlike typical animated movies, the character's lines overlap each other to sound more like normal speech. Also, the animation is of exceptional quality. Many of the scenes (especially the ones involving water) almost appear to have been shot against a real life backdrop.

As is required of any mainstream animated production, El Dorado has five or six musical numbers. Scored, written and sung by Hans Zimmer, Tim Rice and Elton John, most of the songs are not particularly memorable. In fact, there should be a limit to how many cheesy songs John can sing in one movie. Only "It's Tough to be a God," performed by Kline and Branagh, stands out from the pack.

The Road to El Dorado succeeds at being relatively refreshing. Its use of unorthodox characters and natural-sounding speech make it surprisingly fun to watch. The key to enjoying this movie lies in approaching it with low expectations.

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