Review: The Road to El Dorado

The bizarre combo of Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh as our leads gives a quirky heart to a forgotten Dreamworks Animation Studio style…

Two thieves acquire a map leading them to the hidden city of gold, El Dorado. But when they find it their morals shift when they meet El Dorado’s natives and their friendship is put on the line.

What happened to Dreamworks Animation? This film has some gorgeous 2D, hand-drawn animation, looking back at this and comparing it to the endless Shrek abominations and upcoming “experiences” as Boss Baby, I can’t help but feel like Dreamworks have lost their way. Not to mention Illumination Studios (the brains behind the brainless Minions) now own Dreamworks.

The film is a relatively simple affair: our hapless heroes are hounded by the Spanish army, captured, then break free again and flee towards their hidden riches. Tulio (Kline) and Miguel (Branagh) have great tos and fros which make them instantly likable, and while the mature actors yet immature material makes for a less marketable experience it is still a fun one nonetheless. Our heroes are bumbling yet loyal and have an Aladdin-esque level of guile between them, and their horse companion is entertaining too!
This unorthodox movie may have bombed in the box office when it released in 2000 (it is the only Dreamworks animation to not return a profit…) it makes some narrative decisions that are far and away better than nearly all other modern kids animation. What do you imagine will happen when two thieves find themselves seen as literal gods by the native people? Yeah, the “liar revealed” storyline. Betrayal, broken hearts, etc. Nope. Not here!

The music numbers may not be memorable, but there’s a lot of quirky fun and sassy side characters to enjoy and the animation is lively and progressive. I did feel like there was a side story for the Spanish army pursuing them that didn’t go anywhere.

If you have some free time, rediscover the Road to El Dorado.



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