The Road to El Dorado! If you’ve never heard of it, then you’re … probably one of the many, many people who did not go to see this movie, which flopped pretty badly in theaters back in ’00. But I forgive you.
Today’s half-detailed picture brought to you by: My need to include an image on this ostensibly-art blog, my continuing inability to draw humans (even animated ones), and the rather unavoidable temptation caused by Miguel literally holding his hands up and begging like a dog shortly after the title quote.
So. This movie. I watched it when I was nine, and I watched it yesterday, and let me tell you, SO MUCH must have gone over my head when I was nine. Like, I remember some of this, but it is definitely a Dreamworks movie and a PG one at that. Despite that, there’s a refreshing lack of bodily-function humor and over-the-top slapstick (don’t get me wrong, I think virtually every major character falls/is crushed to his/her death and walks away from it at some point in this movie, but it’s generally not for comic effect). I can’t imagine my mom having been pleased with lines like “LET’S GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE,” but it doesn’t seem to have scarred me for life. If anything would have done that, it would’ve been seeing Pan’s Labyrinth when I was 15 … but really, did anyone who was 15 when that came out NOT go see it despite their better judgement? Do 15-year-olds HAVE better judgement? I can’t recall having had any, myself.
I digress. I re-watched the movie after stumbling on the old Elton John music video for what was easily my favorite song for like a month after seeing El Dorado (the excitement fizzled when I realized I couldn’t buy it easily, it was only on the movie theater’s radio station, and YouTube didn’t exist yet). To my surprise, it has aged far better for me than many cartoon theme songs I loved from that time period. It still has what I adored as a nine-year-old (CONSTANT REPETITION) but also a nice melody and not-too-distractingly-insipid lyrics. I know that sounds like super faint praise, but I really do like Someday Out of the Blue, and you can’t go wrong with a slightly-weird animated Elton John randomly but convincingly stuck in scenes from the movie (often in place of poor Miguel, for some reason).
I mention the video because I watched it when I still had little memory of the movie besides “Cuba!” and a couple other random flickers. My first passing thought, which grew less passing with each second, was “wait … did they put a love song for these two dudes in the movie? Wasn’t there a girl at some point?” And there was a girl at some point, and that bit’s in the music video eventually, but … with the lyrics, there’s at least one point where Miguel and Tulio are pretty much one quick glance away from this being a fandmade shipper video. And then I read the comments, and saw I wasn’t the only one by a long shot.
Now, normally I’m not one for after-the-fact “conspiracy romances” between characters who were never explicitly written as having a thing for each other. Even if a character initially was/wasn’t intended as a potential romantic interest (like Luke from Gilmore Girls … although that went pretty badly so nevermind), all that can be scrapped pretty thoroughly in a rewrite. But darned if these guys don’t make a cuter couple than Tulio and Chel (who is still fabulous, by the way, and shamelessly interested from the get-go in a way most female love interests aren’t — “Do you mind?” “No. [realizes they don’t want her staring while they disrobe] Oh, oh, oh, [looks away]” — side side note, man these two are shirtless a lot), and FOR THE WHOLE MOVIE. If they really did ditch the idea of having them be a couple, they left a plausible “couple’s adventure/lover’s spat” storyline in place, with a handful of Chel/Tulio interaction thrown in. And either way, even though these things are presumably meant to be vague and poppy so they’re not too irrevocably tied to the movie, I’m fairly certain the credits song didn’t get the memo about Chel being the love interest. Who would possibly need to “start again” in that relationship, anyhow?
Buuuut this isn’t really a post about how Tulio and Miguel are an adorable not-couple, though that did stand out going back over this film. It’s about my surprising lack of disappointment on re-watching, and that none of it is quiiiite as stereotypical as I’d assumed it would be. I mean, there are tons of cartoon stereotypes here (skinny, British-sounding villain; light-haired good guy; oddly smart animal sidekick who by the way is clearly the not-so-distant ancestor of Maximus from Tangled), but we also have a confident lady who isn’t a tomboy and/or assassin; “good guys” who aren’t constantly hampered by a need for moral high ground (the boys and Chel are a veritable trickster trio surviving off their wits, and even the chief knows they’re lying but chooses not to tell his people); and visually, not a lot of generic “copy-paste” citizens or soldiers (I’m looking at you, confusingly-identical-dino-soldiers-in-otherwise-diverse-Stitch-universe).
Basically this is a fun movie and it’s too bad it didn’t do better but sixteen years later both copies are currently checked out from the library so I guess it’s doing okay.