Starring (voices): Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Rosie Perez, Armand Assante, Edward James Olmos, Jim Cummings
Rated PG for Mild Thematic Material and Language
Disney cornered the animation market since the release of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." But about 20 years ago (give or take), other studios wanted a piece of the pie. Few of them were any good, and none of them could capture that Disney magic. Although with franchises like "Despicable Me," DreamWorks Animation is on solid footing (this is the only animated film of theirs that failed to turn a profit), "The Road to El Dorado" has been all but for forgotten because it's a forgettable movie.
Tulio (Kline) and Miguel (Branagh) are two con men living in Spain in the mid-1500's. In an attempt to escape the authorities, they end up on the voyage to the New World. There, Captain Cortes (Cummings) throws them into the brig and plans to sell them to a plantation in Cuba. With the help of Cortes's horse, they escape and end up on land. There, with the map they conned off their opponents in the film's opening scene, they set off to find the city of El Dorado. But they're not prepared for what lies in store for them when they get there. The people there, led by the local chieftain (Olmos) and religious leader Tzekel-Kan (Assante), believe them to be gods. Tulio and Miguel must keep up the con if they want to get away with the gold. And their heads.
The problem with this movie is as easy to identify as it is common: it spends so much time trying to look good and appeal to every demographic that it forgets to tell an interesting story. Disney movies, which director Bibo Bergeron, Don Paul and an uncredited Jeffrey Katzenberg are trying to imitate so desperately they're not even bothering to hide it, understood that while visuals are important, it's the characters and the stories that are the real draw. The filmmakers, like so many other films, have completely underestimated both their own resources and the intelligence of their audience. They have the cast, the story and the music (Elton John and Tim Rice are brought back after their work from "The Lion King"...another tie to Disney). Why not let them do what they're good at?
Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh seem like a match made in heaven, and they are. But the material they are given moves so fast that they can't show their stuff. It's a shame, really. Rosie Perez adds some spunk as the obligatory love interest. She sizes them up almost immediately...and wants in on the con. Armand Assante is vicious enough, making his character less a conspirator and more of a zealot. Edward James Olmos and veteran Disney voice actor Jim Cummings appear in small roles.
In short, the film is fun if you're bored and need something to entertain the kids. Without the necessary rewrites that allow the story and characters to breathe, it ranks no higher than "meh."