The Yellow Brick Road

A story that will appeal to children and adults alike.

Of all the genres of film - romance, comedy, suspense - animation is the hardest to get right. A slip here, a pencil stroke there, and the effect you've been going for is lost, leaving your audience disappointed and unhappy. Conversely, it's also the most rewarding when you get it right - and the folks at Dreamworks SKG should be delighted with the results of their work on "The Road To El Dorado", which is definitely a movie to watch when it hits theatres this weekend.

"The Road To El Dorado" begins with Tulio and Miguel, expertly voiced by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, conning a group of sailors out of their earnings on a Spanish port. Things don't go according to plan, and the two hustlers soon find themselves on the run, clutching a map that supposedly reveals the route to El Dorado, the fabled City of Gold.

After escaping from a ship manned by Cortes, Spain's most fearsome general, and accompanied by Cortes' steed Altivo, Tulio and Miguel battle stormy seas and ferocious sharks to finally wash up on a deserted beach near the city. With a little help from the sassy El Dorado native Chel (voiced by Rosie Perez), they enter the city, where they are hailed as gods and thrown into the midst of a power struggle between the city's benevolent Chief (voiced by Edward James Olson) and its evil High Priest Tzekel-Kan (spoken for by Armand Assante).

The plan seems simple: escape from the city with as much gold as possible and return to Spain to live like kings. Yet again, things don't go according to plan: Tulio falls in love with Chel, Miguel falls in love with El Dorado, and the High Priest decides to conjure up some nasty evil...

Two things about this movie immediately grabbed my attention - the animation, which is flawless; and the voices, which are perfectly in sync with each character's personality. The brilliant colours of El Dorado make a stark contrast to the sandstone browns and greys of Spain, and the experience, talent and passion of Dreamworks' animation team ensures that every frame has something, some tiny motif, that illustrates the attention paid to detail (someone give the guy who came up with the pseudo-basketball game in the El Dorado arena a bonus!). Rosie Perez, as the voice of Chel, and Edward James Olson, as the voice of the Chief, are particularly notable, although all the voice-over artists are excellent, and Armand Assante, who voices the nasty Tzekel-Kan, does a great job of imbuing his voice with just the right amount of sleazy ambition

You'll also hear a lot of music in the movie - "The Road To El Dorado" brings together the Oscar-winning team that collaborated on "The Lion King", including Elton John, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer. There are six original songs in the movie, of which all but one are sung by John himself, and they hit all the right notes in adding an extra dimension to this adventure.

If you like buddy movies, or the kids are pestering you for a movie, go and catch "The Road To El Dorado" - it's a road well worth travelling!

This article was first published on 18 Oct 2000.