The Road to El Dorado
directed by Eric
Bergeron & Dan Paul
(Dreamworks, 2000)

The Road to El Dorado, a glittering animated extravaganza from Dreamworks Studios, paves its way to box office gold with hapless con men, a sultry seductress, an evil conquistador and a bone-crushing giant stone jaguar. Unfortunately, it's not thoroughly exciting.

Primarily a buddy movie, this road show opens with con men Tulio and Miguel, voiced enthusiastically by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, winning a map to the fabled land of gold and then blaming each other in a feigned duel when they're caught cheating. Through a crowd-pleasing series of mishaps, the two inadvertently stowaway on Cortes' ship as he sails to pillage and slaughter in the New World. The imposing conqueror is obviously the epitome of evil as he all but breathes fire in tossing our soon-to-be heroes into the brig. They, of course, escape, with the aid of Altivo, a really, really smart war horse, eliminating most interaction with what could have been an entertaining villain.

Tulio, Miguel and Altivo, who looked rather uncomfortable in that row boat, conveniently land at the exact starting point on the ill-gained map and, blinded by golden visions, set off on a very brief journey to El Dorado, accompanied by a forgettable Elton John song. This road movie doesn't spend much time on the road before the bumbling adventurers arrive in the shimmering city where they are hailed as gods. Knowing a substantial opportunity when it smacks them over the head, they agree to stay and bask in tribute. Sexy native Chel, voiced with sassy attitude by Rosie Perez, translates a few cons of her own as a partner in greed and love interest.

Sacrifice-loving High Priest Tzekel-Kan (Armand Assante), who speaks for the gods, hopes to use Tulio and Miguel to solidify his power. He's less than pleased when they decide to speak for themselves, forcing him to conjure a confrontation of sizable proportions.

While the movie doesn't maintain a high interest level -- several children in the theater asked if it was time to go home during the plodding middle portion -- it boasts some admirable qualities. The scenes are lushly drawn, and the first view of El Dorado in all its brilliance is breathtakingly impressive. The film is at its best when Tulio and Miguel interact. The lead voices are delightful, especially Kline in prime comedic form, somewhere between the silliness of his Pirate King and the idiocy he showed in A Fish Called Wanda. Branagh's character evolves from a nice two-bit criminal into a real hero. The two even get to sing the best song, "It's Tough to be a God," though Elton keeps all the other songs for himself.

The Road to El Dorado is a beautifully crafted effort with a talented cast, perfect for the rental market. The kids can fast-forward through the doldrums and then repeat the funny bits and the exciting conclusion again and again.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]

Buy The Road to El Dorado from