It is no secret I am not the biggest Dreamworks fan. For me they’ve had two wonderful franchises, How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda and one masterpiece Prince of Egypt but the rest I could do without (although I admit I haven’t seen the Madagascar movies except for Penguins which I liked). Anyway, I was working on a project and put on a movie as I worked and figured why not give Road to El Dorado a shot as it is on Netflix. I’d heard some good things and I love action adventure treasure hunting movies, so maybe it would be a forgotten gem?
I’ll just say it- Boy what a stinker…
It does look nice. I will grant it that but that’s really the only praise I have for it.It’s insulting, stupid, inappropriate for children, tonally off and full of unpleasant or underdeveloped characters. In other words, a mess.
But wait…I can hear you saying ‘didn’t you like Atlantis and isn’t that very similar?’.
No it’s not. Atlantis creates a whole new world with its own culture, people, even language, so nobody is insulted because the culture doesn’t exist (plus it’s inherently more creative and interesting to see something imagined than a cheap reproduction of a people and society). There is also a whole cast of characters in Atlantis I found extremely likable and engaging. Atlantis actually embraces diversity. This says white people are smarter and better then those silly natives. The action is well paced in Atlantis and aside from a skimpy swimsuit it is appropriate for kids. So no the two are not alike at all.
The Road to El Dorado is about 2 con artists named Tulio (Kevin Kline) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) who in 1519 stow away on Cortes’ boat and sneak to the ‘new world’ to find the City of Gold or El Dorado. Cortes is a semi-villain and a total snoozefest and from the beginning Tulio and Miguel are very smug and unlikable.
The boys find the lost city surprisingly quickly and of course they are immediately treated like Gods in an offensive caricature of native traditions and people. It’s worse, much worse, than Pocahontas. It’s one thing for Redman in Peter Pan to exist in 1953 but in 2000 to have the kind of at best culturally insensitive characters, story and behavior is really quite shocking. At least Atlantis had a certain reverence and awe at its imaginary culture. This was so bad.
We even get a quasi form of soccer that is embarrassing. I don’t know what they were thinking. The villain is completely underdeveloped and feels like it was copied off of the obnoxious priests in Prince of Egypt. He is overtaken by some kind of evil spirit and creates a rock monster out of the Gods. I guess it is some kind of heathen magic but it is not explained and doesn’t make much sense or add any kind of fear or suspense a good villain should. At least in Pocahontas I can remember Radcliffe’s name.
Just like in Pocahontas the movie acts like the natives are completely oblivious to the value of gold, which is absurd. They literally have scenes with tribeswomen dumping bowls and bowls of gold into the ocean. As if all Native and Central American tribes did not have commerce, trade and even their own currency. Kids are smart enough to know they weren’t dumping tons of gold into the ocean. They have made an occasional offering but this is totally over the top and the natives act like they are clueless of it having any value at all. Give me a break. Seriously the natives are probably more badly portrayed than in Peter Pan because at least that is an imaginary land and it is a 3 minute song and we move on. This is 75% of the movie one cliche and cringe inducing stereotype after another.
It is also extremely inappropriate for kids. I had issues with the skimpy suit in Atlantis but at least she was smart and kind of mythical. In this the boys gamble, lie, cheat, steal, and are generally bad examples.
But to make it worse it’s surprisingly vulgar for a childrens movie and the princess Chel wears practically nothing and there is a scene where it is strongly implied her and Tulio have sex. I was shocked.
The music by usually reliable Tim Rice and Elton John is largely forgettable and most of it is sung by Elton John kind of like Phil Collins in the Tarzan movies. Hans Zimmer takes a huge step down from Lion King with the mundane score.
Like I said it looks nice but I thought this was a real bomb. No wonder it did so poorly at the box office. I mean who was it made for? It’s too grown up for most little kids and too stupid and predictable for adults/teens. Someone was telling me on twitter the studio got involved kind of like Disney and Hunchback and made them change things around so they are in El Dorado longer. It feels that way. I smell a rat!
This is the era when Jeffrey Katzenberg was heavily involved with stories and the Dreamworks animation films and I don’t know what he was thinking? He usually has good taste but this is tawdry insulting junk.
I normally don’t review the stinkers but I think it being on Netflix a lot of people will turn it on and I hope this review can sway at least my friends away from it. I was really offended by it and I don’t get offended that easily. There is so much good animation on Netflix. Move on to the next option.
This is a reminder of why I don’t want to review the Dreamworks Canon. Yuck.
Content Grade- C Overall Grade- F