The Emperor’s New Groove, directed by Mark Dindal, is ninety-minute Disney production following the character development of Kuzco, the teenaged, selfish Emperor of the Incans after he is turned into a llama. Kuzco with the help of Pacha, a loyal peasant, must avoiding getting killed by Kuzco’s advisor, Yzma, and return Kuzco to his human form. This film exhibits surprisingly genius randomness which contributes to the humor of the story. This article will explore how ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ accomplishes the feat of having genius randomness and the limitations on randomness in movies.
I have a friend who first introduced me to the intricacies of producing something truly random. His signature joke would get us all laughing, but it was remarkably simple. His joke was simply, “I woke up in the morning and ate a pickle.” This sentence’s randomness is striking. Somehow, we just never see it coming. This is simply because humans were not instinctively designed to be random or to expect random things to happen for our minds were wired to be logical.
How does The Emperor’s New Groove achieve randomness if it so difficult for the human mind to dream up something truly random yet hilarious? Coherence is key when it comes to random humor. Anything humorous must stay plausible in the universe the story creates. Any Narnia story wouldn’t go into depth about the politics driving England at this time to make the reader laugh imply because it is out of the scope of the book. Another example is the classic child’s attempt to inject randomness into a story by putting aliens or crocodiles at random moments. These cringy attempts at humor are cringy because they are too far outside the scope of reality. True humorous moments come when something unexpected yet coherent happens within the scope of the story.
Another way this movie is humorous is through character interaction. However, the characters in the story must stay true to themselves and act like the people they are characterized to be. This greatly restricts how random one can make speech. Randomness in conversation is further restricted by the fact that the character must have reason to say whatever he says. There is always reason behind the randomness.
An example of how the movie expertly used these rules is when Pacha rescues Kuzco from the Jungle, and they fall into a river at the bottom of a canyon tied to two sides of a log, which bobs up vertically as it gets drawn faster and faster. The two exchange a relatively unflustered dialogue:
Pacha (sees a waterfall): Uh oh.
Kuzco (cannot see the waterfall): Let me guess. We are about to go over a waterfall.
Kuzco: Sharp rocks at the bottom?
Pacha: Most Likely.
Kuzco: Bring it.
Kuzco up to this point has been characterized as a person who would say this memorable line. If he was a characterized as a complete coward, this line would have us scratching our heads instead of laughing as the intention is.
Randomness in plots can be the most difficult to implement into a movie. Plots are devised to draw the audience into the story, and the believability factor is extremely important. Randomness could be a hero fingering a bookcase and then suddenly pulling out a book at random, and by taking out that particular book, the bookcase slides back to reveal the villain’s hidden lair. This random move by the script writers would have ruined that make-believe story the hero found the lair out of dumb luck. Major plot elements cannot be based on randomness. The Emperor’s New Groove applies this rule by keeping the plot elements that matter untouched by random events and leaving everything else “up to chance.”
Randomness in any story has so many boundaries, so it’s surprising when a movie catches you off guard with the complete unpredictability of the story. In the end though, it isn’t randomness that catches you off guard. Instead, it is the concentrated effort on the part of the writers of the story to try to amuse the audience, flexing their minds to come up with ways of keeping their story safe while producing quality humor and having the characters staying true to themselves. Concluding, The Emperor’s New Groove inserts humorous randomness into the story through the minor role humor played in the plot, consistent characters according to their characterizations, and coherence throughout the plot.