tek's rating:

The Road to El Dorado (PG)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This came out in 2000... and I feel like I must have seen it in a theater, though I can't imagine how that would have happened, in 2000. Maybe I didn't, I dunno. I'm sure sometime after that I got it on VHS, but didn't write a review until I got it on DVD in 2012. Anyway, it didn't do well financially, but that's a damn shame, because it's actually pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as your average Disney animated film (it's one of DreamWorks's earlier animated films), but definitely good. Um... most of the songs are by Elton John, but I'm afraid I don't find them particularly memorable. They work well enough while watching the movie, but they're not anything I'd randomly think of any other time. The animation's pretty good, the voice cast is good (Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Rosie Perez, Armand Assante, Edward James Olmos, and a bit of Jim Cummings), the story is fun. (It actually seems to be inspired by Bob Hope & Bing Crosby buddy movies; I've never seen any of them, but at least I have a vague notion of what to expect from any movie whose title begins with "The Road To.") It's got a lot of humor, but it can also be surprisingly dark in a few spots. And sexy. And um, it's all just a big adventure that's ultimately about friendship. More or less.

It begins in Spain in 1519. There are these two con artists named Tulio (Kline) and Miguel (Branagh), who obtain a map to the legendary city of gold, El Dorado. Tulio is the far more practical of the two, and isn't really interested in the map. But Miguel is very excited about it. And he's good at convincing Tulio to do crazy things. Anyway, the two of them end up running from a bunch of people who are very angry at them, and their escape unwittingly lands them on a ship that's headed toward the New World, on a voyage commanded by Hernan Cortes (Cummings)... who is not happy to find stowaways on his ship. After a little while, Tulio and Miguel escape, with some help from a war horse named Altivo. The three of them are stuck in a rowboat together for awhile, and nearly die, but finally wind up on dry land. Miguel still has the map to El Dorado, and against Tulio's better judgement, they go looking for it. And just when it seems to lead nowhere, they meet a woman named Chel (Perez), who was being pursued by some kind of royal guards, having stolen gold from a temple. When the guards see Tulio and Miguel, they lead them (along with Chel and Altivo) through a waterfall and onwards to... El Dorado.

Miguel and Tulio are worshiped as gods, while the tribal chief (Olmos) and the high priest (Assante) each try to curry their favor, in a political rivalry. Tulio and Miguel play this rivalry for all it's worth, hoping to get as much gold as they can, and head back to Spain. However, it will take a few days for the people of El Dorado to build them a boat that could carry them and the gold. Meanwhile, Tulio thinks he and Miguel should lie low, as it would be easy for the people to discover they're not really gods. But Miguel would rather explore the city and have some fun. Of course, Chel figured out pretty quick that they're not gods, and offered to help them with their con, in exchange for part of the take, and to go to Spain with them. They reluctantly agreed... but Tulio and Miguel made an agreement with each other that Chel was off limits, um... romantically. This agreement falls apart when Chel displays an interest in Tulio. That, and the guys' different ideas about pretty much everything, leads to a major strain in their friendship. However, a far more dangerous problem occurs because they're not behaving at all the way the high priest, Tzekel-Kan, expected the gods to act. He was quite keen on human sacrifice, but Miguel and Tulio prevented that. So eventually, he... stops worshiping them. Hard.

Anyway... that's all I'll say about the plot. But things work out moderately well, in the end. Yep, definitely a fun movie.

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