30 Movies in 30 Days: The Road to El Dorado

Had I seen it before: Possibly? That might seem stupid to say but I had definitely seen bits and pieces of this but I’m not sure I had ever watched in its entirety before. Also, I attempted to watch it an earlier day and fell asleep, so I’d definitely seen ACT 1 before.

What IMDb says: Two swindlers get their hands on a map to the fabled city of gold, El Dorado.

Requirements fulfilled:
– 
At least one animated movie
– At least one PG movie

Why I picked it: I’m like 98% sure the trailer for this movie was one of the included trailers on the Shrek VHS tape, which is possibly my most viewed VHS tape as a child. It’s a movie I remember wanting to see every time I saw the trailer and so it was time to finally satisfy that need.

What I liked about it: This movie is FANTASTICALLY written and structured. I didn’t realize this before watching it, but it was actually written by the same team that wrote both Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. If you enjoyed either movie but have not yet seen The Road to El Dorado, get on it! (It’s on Netflix, so you don’t have much of an excuse).

What exactly is so good about the writing? It does a masterful job of “showing not telling” as they say. Within the first seven minutes of the movie we learn:

  • Miguel and Tulio are conmen
  • Miguel likes to take risks, Tulio likes to play it safe
  • Miguel and Tulio have a map to El Dorado, the city of gold
  • Together, Miguel and Tulio can improvise a way out of any jam they might find themselves in.

Virtually none of this is exposed through dialog. Instead, it is exposed through a scene where Miguel and Tulio are playing dice. Let’s go through those bullets again:

  • Miguel and Tulio are conmen (we know because they’re playing with loaded dice)
  • Miguel likes to take risks, Tulio likes to play it safe (we know because Tulio does not want to take another bet from his opponent, Miguel does anyway)
  • Miguel and Tulio have a map to El Dorado, the city of gold (We know, because they win this in the bet Tulio didn’t want to do. Albeit, some of this is exposed through dialog)
  • Together, Miguel and Tulio can improvise a way out of any jam they might find themselves in. (We know, because they pretend to get in a fight with each other over the loaded dice so as to cause a scene just long enough that they can sneak over a wall).

So just seven minutes we already have an intuitive sense of who our main characters are and what their relationship is without actually learning any of this through overly expository dialog or voiceover. We know what’s going to cause tension. We know what the main adventure of the movie is going to be. All writers need to watch the first seven minutes, they’re THAT good.

Through the rest of the script, we have solid pacing and Miguel and Tulio continue to play off each other in ways that are not only comedic, but also ways that cause conflict between the two. And we all know conflict is a crucial element of any movie.

What I didn’t like: I hate how this movie desperately wanted to be a musical, but didn’t commit to it. We only have one musical number where Miguel and Tulio actually sing. We also have several montages to original songs performed by Elton John. I couldn’t help but think many of these montages could have been turned into proper musical numbers if they really wanted to. This is the only way in which The Road to El Dorado glaringly falls short of its Disney counterparts. Either write a bloody musical, or don’t. But don’t halfass it.

Would I watch it again: Yes! It’s a fun movie that I think people of all ages could enjoy.

2 thoughts on “30 Movies in 30 Days: The Road to El Dorado

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