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The Road to El Dorado (2000)

by on 2011/05/16

“It will be loquacious to a fault.”

* * * *

The Road to El Dorado was the very first time I took the lovely and talented Miss_Tree to the movie theatre to see a film.

Correction: this wasn’t the first time she went to the movie theatre, this was the first time she was conscious and ready to see an entire feature film. Yes, I was one of those people who brought their tiny, squalling babies to the movie theatre.

I know, I know …I belong in the first circle of Hell.

In fairness to me, Miss_Tree was always entirely quiet and zonked out in her Snugli every time I brought her to the theatre prior to this milestone event. For all anyone knew, I was simply a massive person or smuggling my cat in under my blue corduroy vest.

Miss_Tree watched El Dorado with rapt, breathless attention at the ripe old age of 1.5 years for each of the 89 minutes. This should be all the review necessary for any parent reading this. Further proof of this movie’s excellence is the fact that, at the time, Miss_Tree was already a veteran sprinter, and was known and feared by retail staff across Toronto.

Starring the incomparable voice-acting talents of Kevin Kline (Fish Called Wanda) and Kenneth Branaugh (Dead Again), the action centres around two charming small-time grifters Miguel (Kline) and Tulio (Kenneth Branagh). Playing a fixed game of craps in a Spanish alley way, the duo win a map to the fabled city of gold – El Dorado.

Through a series of swashbuckling and slapstick missteps, they wind up accidentally stowing away in barrels of pickles aboard the ships of the genuinely scary warlord Hernán Cortés (Jim Cummings) bound for the New World. Thanks to Cortés’ food-crazed horse Altivo, Tulio and Miguel manage to escape the ship before being flogged, nearly die at sea in a rowboat and wind up on a tropical island scattered with skeletons.

Tulio, the more optimistic and exuberant of the two, talks Miguel into the heart of darkness or rather the monkey- and slug-infested forest, following the clues on the map. Without giving anything away, they find the city – and it in no way disappoints.

The first glimpses of El Dorado are unforgettable. Walls are made of shimmering gold, enormous koi fish swim in the river, the scenes of village life are fascinating. Happily for the hapless Miguel and Tulio, they are mistaken for apocalyptic gods and given a reverential welcome.

Turns out this beautiful lost city is rife with church versus state politics. Blood-thirsty high priest Tzekel-Kan (Armand Assante) and the kindly chief (Edward James Olmos) are at locking gold-plated, er proverbial horns over the coming apocalypse.

The wild-eyed priest is bent on piling on the human sacrifice to bring about the rapture or something and the chief is little more about celebrating life – mostly by eating and drinking.

The very best part of the city is Chel (Rosie Perez), the smart-mouthed, sexy temple servant who wants in on Miguel and Tulio’s grift.

The ensuing action is surprising and just a tiny bit scary. I think that this formative experience showed me that Miss_Tree was definitely a bit of thrill-seeker with almost no fear at all. Not even of giant killer panthers.

This is a terrific, fast-paced, funny film that I love. Not just for sentimental reasons. Also for sentimental reasons.

* * * *

89 minutes

Rated PG for pretty great

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