Starring: Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Rosie Perez
Director: Bibo Bergeron, Don Paul
Running Time: 89 mins
The Road To El Dorado is an American film about two Spanish swindlers who, after laying their hands on a map to the mystical city of gold, El Dorado, set out in search of fortune, but get more than they bargained for when they arrive.
In the midst of the power shift in animation away from Disney to DreamWorks at the turn of the 21st Century, the latter was famous for a number of all-time classics, including The Prince Of Egypt, Shrek and more. The Road To El Dorado, however, doesn’t quite fit into that upper echelon, and although it provides a fairly enjoyable, easy-going adventure, it’s a rather basic watch with subpar music and humour throughout.
While the film fits in well to the industry trend of the time in bringing folktales from around the world to the big screen, it’s far from the spectacular, Indiana Jones-esque adventure that it seems to promise at first. After all, the film is called The Road To El Dorado, but the actual adventure part of the story is over within the first twenty minutes, and the majority of the movie follows the two main characters as they settle into life in El Dorado under false pretences.
Of course, the film’s light-hearted and easy-going atmosphere means that the lack of an epic, grandiose adventure doesn’t particularly smart. Also, when the film settles in a little more to the two men and their big lie upon arriving in El Dorado, it takes on rather more of a fable-like quality, looking at the pair getting their comeuppance for their arrogance and tricks.
But at the same time, the two leads are entirely likeable and charismatic, and make for surprisingly entertaining anti-heroes. The film’s character ambiguity isn’t quite complicated, but with an energetic back-and-forth between the pair and their often comically selfish personas, they prove strong, entertaining leads to follow right the way through.
One thing that doesn’t particularly help The Road To El Dorado, however, is its comedy. It’s not a wholly unfunny watch, and it manages to entertain with its own charisma and charm in other regards, but I really didn’t find myself laughing all that much in this film, which, given the often languishing story, often proves frustrating.
The movie is a light-hearted and easy-going watch, so the humour is similarly simple and easy, but it also falls disappointingly in line with the film’s more basic qualities, and in tandem with a rather simplistic plot, the humour is frustratingly predictable throughout, and really takes away from the great comedic energy that the likes of Shrek are so famous for.
Also, in its attempts to mirror the best Disney movies of the age, The Road To El Dorado features a number of musical numbers – although all of which are really quite disappointing. Lacking the spectacle and show-stopping power of the best animated musicals of the era, the film’s songs are consistently underwhelming, and prove more of a jarring obstacle to the plot development than anything else.
Overall, The Road To El Dorado is far from the best animated movie you’ll ever come across. It’s an easy-going, light-hearted and simple watch, and it does do enough to keep you entertained throughout with its fable-like story. However, with predictable humour, a basic plot and poor music throughout, it’s an often frustrating watch, and far from the gold standard of animation set in the years before it, which is why I’m giving it a 7.0.