The Emperor’s New Groove has always been one of my favorite kids movies. I have always loved it for the comedy, but the movie also sends out a lot of messages; good and bad. These messages align with what Giannetti considers a “leftist” film. According to Giannetti, leftists prioritize similarities between people, cooperation over competition, and the poor over the wealthy; all things the film emphasizes.
One of the strongest messages in the film is the message of self-improvement. Throughout the movie we see Kuzco turn from a selfish and greedy ruler into a more compassionate friend. In the beginning of the movie he wants to build his summer house where a village is and he does not care that it will displace all the villagers. As the movie progresses, we see Kuzco start to care more about people, largely due to Pacha’s influence. In the end, Kuzco moves his summer house to a different hill and we see him hugging and having fun with Pacha’s family. Kuzco’s own journey of self-improvement teaches kids that people can change for the better, and they can improve themselves.
A message we learn from Pacha is to always try to find the good in people. No matter how awful Kuzco is to Pacha and his village, Pacha always ends up helping him out. There is one point when Pacha says he’ll take Kuzco on the four-day journey to the city, even though Kuzco is going to take out his village. He remarks “Well, four days is a long time. Who knows, maybe you’ll change your mind.” In the end, Kuzco does change his mind, largely due to Pacha. Pacha teaches children that even if people seem bad at first, everyone has some good in them and it is important to seek it out.
A more negative message is about greed. Kuzco, the main character, is very greedy and materialistic. He lives very lavishly and seems to prioritize wealth and affluence. This is clear when he explains his plans for a big summer house with a water slide. Although Kuzco does improve throughout the film and becomes more compassionate, his greed remains. He moves his summer house to a vacant spot so as not to displace villagers, but he still builds it and seems to enjoy the extravagance of it. This could be a potentially harmful message for kids because it seems to celebrate greed and love of material things.
The film also seems to portray the stereotype that wealthy people are heartless and selfish. This is shown through Kuzco’s actions and the way he treats people. He throws an old man out the window for bumping into him and he flat out tells a bunch of women that they are not pretty. He also has no regard for the poor and does not care what happens to them, so long as he gets what he wants. In addition, Yzma, who also seems to be fairly wealthy is also portrayed this way. She even says to a villager who says his family does not have food, “You really should have thought of that before you became peasants!” This contrasts with Pacha and his family, who are less wealthy and are very loving and caring. This might send a negative message to kids that all wealthy people are cruel and all poor people are kind. These messages were shown largely through the use of pathos. The interactions Kuzco has with other people, both when he is cruel and when he is kind, are full of emotions.
In my opinion, the positive messages win out over the negative messages. The movie centers on Kuzco’s change for the better and on the friendship that develops between him and Pacha. The more negative messages, although present, are not as obvious. For this reason, I would recommend The Emperor’s New Groove to children and give the movie 4 out of 5 nachos.