In The Road to El Dorado, two-bit con men follow a treasure map to a legendary city of gold. The dreamer (Miguel) and the schemer (Tulio) brave sharks, leeches and rival fortune-hunters before landing in paradise and being revered as gods. To walk away rich men (in fact, to walk away at all) they must sustain the ruse with the help of Chel, a shapely native girl wearing just enough sarong to preserve the film’s PG rating.
DreamWorks has used the big screen as a canvas for this lavish, majestic-looking animated feature. But despite its technical excellence and homilies about friendship and the value of human life, this rollicking comedy-adventure has problems.
Parents’ jaws will clench at the very first line of Elton John’s opening theme song: "Our glorious city was built by the divinities, by gods ..." Yes, polytheism is pervasive in this Mayan utopia. In fact, Miguel and Tulio milk their "divine" status and eventually face off against a mystical high priest who conducts human sacrifices and uses dark powers to animate brutal stone beasts.
Also, brief nudity, sexual tension, a few mild profanities and shocking moments of animated violence raise questions about El Dorado’s target audience.
"We originally thought it would be rated PG-13, so we skewed it to that group," says producer Bonnie Radford, "But then we thought we could not exclude the younger kids." Even teens may be turned off by this brassy, morally ambiguous tale of unrepentant rogues who cheat, lie, steal—and seem richer for it at the end.