Kronk's New Groove

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 12/08/05 19:54:52

"Squeak squeaker squeaken whatever.'"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Call me silly, but I was actually looking forward to “Kronk’s New Groove.” I figured that as far as Disney direct-to-video cash-grab sequels go, you could do a lot worse than to spend 70 minutes with the lovable lunkhead from “The Emperor’s New Groove,” voiced by the always entertaining Patrick Warburton.

And yes, Wharburton and his character are enjoyable here - but both are wasted on a zero-effort story that relies more on pop culture references and forgettable situations than it does on the old charm and wit of the original film. (Did we really need an overlong parody of Gollum from “Lord of the Rings?” Whatever happened to timelessness?)

Once again, Disney gives us a sequel that’s actually a series of short stories pasted together. This seems to be the go-to format for the studio, even when they’re not ripping us off by slapping three episodes of a TV show together and calling it a brand new movie (I’m looking at you, “Tarzan & Jane”). For “Kronk’s,” we learn that our titular hero has settled into a nice life as a cook at that one diner from the first movie. But his father is due to arrive soon, which brings up a load of anxiety, as Kronk fears he’s never lived up to dad’s expectations. Which leads us to flashback number one, taking us to a time when Yzma (Eartha Kitt) tricks Kronk into conning a group of friends at the local senior center into buying up a fake youth potion, which becomes so expensive they have to sell their house. Flashback number two shows us Kronk as the leader of those chipmunk scouts; he falls in love with the head of a rival scout group (Tracey Ullman), although their relationship is tested when both get too competitive. The third act is flashback-free, given to the arrival of Papi (John Mahoney), where Kronk learns the lesson of the film (“be true to your groove,” as the opening song blandly puts it).

The third act also tosses us a set-up right out of the sitcom playbook, with Kronk convincing Chichi (Wendie Malick) to pretend to be his wife, so he can lie to his father, look good, etc., etc. Surprisingly, this hackneyed turn of events is the best part of the film, as the screenwriting crew manage to turn this scene into an exaggeration of the cliché. There’s enough wackiness here that not only do we forgive the lame plot device, but we smile at it.

But it’s one of the too few times we’re smiling, perhaps because it’s one of the too few times in the movie that there seems to be any energy to the proceedings. This scene zips along at a manic pace that lived up to the original’s Looney Tunes-esque sensibilities. While the rest of the film is never sluggish (heck, with three storylines, it’s specially designed for the short attention span), there’s just no comic gusto. Any pep, verve, zip this sequel needs to live up to its predecessor has been replaced by cheap sentiment. Also, “Emperor’s” was a fairly cynical film - even in its more honestly touching moments, it refused to hit the usual Disney levels of mawkishness - so the whole bit about Kronk working hard to get “the thumbs up from Papi,” even though Warburton’s performance adds a dash of tongue-in-cheek to it all, feels so very out of place here.

(As for the songs, that’s the good news. They’re not as bad as what’s been pumped out for Disney’s other recent sequel efforts, and although they’re nowhere near the brilliance of the original’s jumping soundtrack, the opening tune and Yzma’s song, while lyrically empty, are catchy enough to hold.)

As is the case with all of these Disney sequels, kids will enjoy themselves, if only in that easy-babysitter kind of way. And yes, the movie does manage to sparkle every now and then. But overall, it’s just too generic, and generic is not what we want from a sequel to a film that managed to escape the Disney mold. “Emperor’s” was a wonderful piece of comic animation, and it deserves better than “Kronk’s,” another slight, mostly forgettable, easy-money Disney affair.

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