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Video: Get that funky groove; Classy animation and amazing computer technology come up trumps in two action-packed films.

Byline: Jessica Mellor Casts a critical eye over the new releases

The Emperor's New Groove

(U, pounds 15.99/pounds 24.99 Ultimate

Groove DVD)

Dr Dolittle 2 (PG, pounds 15.99/

pounds 19.99 DVD)

What's a girl to do? This week there are two cracking films, equally deserving of attention and both of which bring out the kid in you.

I have to admit that I'm not Disney's biggest fan. While their animation and editing is often second to none, I find their stories and characters too insipid or too sweet. But even I was won over by The Emperor's New Groove. It's an inspired, fun and very funky feature that does the memory of Walt proud.

The story is set in a mythical - but South American looking - kingdom ruled by arrogant Emperor Kuzco (voiced by David Spade). He's a spoilt, stupid and selfish ruler who gets his just desserts when he is turned into a llama by evil Yzma (Eartha Kitt).

Scared and stranded in the jungle, Kuzco learns that to get back to his kingdom he has to be kind to one of his subjects, the pleasant peasant Pacha (John Goodman).

Although Spade, Kitt and Goodman do well with their voice roles, the real stars are the animators who provide energy, verve and excitement.

The movie's supervising animator Nik Ranieri reveals their original concept was very different to the finished version.

"We took a research trip to Peru for a film called Kingdom Of The Sun and I was researching for a character that looked like a rock," says Nik. "So I was stuck drawing rocks for the whole trip. Then when we got back they piled it into this story about ancient Incas.

"Within a year the whole thing collapsed. All that stuff was thrown out, but they kept David Spade, Eartha Kitt, the setting and the idea of the Emperor being changed into a llama.

"I was then asked if I'd like to draw the lead character. Usually I wasn't interested in leads because I found them too straight and I like the comedy aspect, but this guy was interesting. He had a side to him, there was a lot of comedy potential and as a character he went through an arc.

"With most heroes you're rooting for them to get what they want, but with Kuzco you root for him to realise he's been a jerk."

Another movie making full use of amazing technology is Dr Dolittle 2, which revisits the story of the kindly doctor (Eddie Murphy) who can talk to animals. Teenage daughter Charisse (Raven-Symone) is struggling to come to terms with his special abilities and is desperate to distance herself from her full-on father. But on a trip to a forest which the good doctor is trying to save from being bulldozed by developers - with some help from his four-legged pals - Charisse is won over.

Funny, inoffensive and brilliantly realised, Murphy is on marvellous form and the effects are superb.

"Eddie's so funny," says Raven-Symone. "On and off camera he's the same. But he is also very mellow and such a professional. He's a legend, so I feel very lucky to have worked with him."

Raven-Symone made her name as outspoken daughter Olivia in the hit TV series The Cosby Show and now has her own US comedy show. She broke on to the big screen in 1998 in Dr Dolittle and was glad to be part of the same team again.

"When the second one came up I said, 'You just can't get another girl, I'm here for you!'" she says.

It was also a joy for Raven-Symone to work with her screen boyfriend, played by Lil' Zane.

"I knew him from before and had always had a little crush on him," she says. "It was so fun, we had a great time on the set. He's real sweet and I don't know if he liked me but we kind of became like brother and sister.

"That's why we had so much chemistry on screen - we were cool with each other."


BEAR ESSENTIALS: Eddie in Dr Dolittle; EVIL: Yzma (voiced by Eartha Kitt) turns the Emperor into a llama
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2001
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