A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Intended to entertain, the film gives a historically inaccurate representation of Spanish colonialization in South America. It paints two White men as heroes, and a local high priest as a stronger evil than the invading Spanish troops.
Friendship is more important than riches. Perseverance and teamwork can be powerful forces. However, there's also the message that Indigenous cultures benefit from being "liberated" or "saved" by White men.
Positive Role Models
Miguel and Tulio lie and cheat to make a living: They fix betting games in Spain and pretend to be gods to steal Indigenous people's gold in El Dorado. Though they learn that friendship is more important than riches, and begin to show greater respect for the local people, their saving the city from Spanish invaders feeds into a White savior narrative. The high priest is scheming and power hungry, constantly suggesting human sacrifices. He is portrayed as even more evil than Spanish invader Cortes. Indigenous woman Chel is highly sexualized in a stereotypical way and attempts to seduce Miguel and Tulio as her ticket out of the city.
Racist depictions of Indigenous people -- who show a mix of Maya, Inca, Aztec, and Olmec influences in the film -- begin with their first communication heard purely in grunts and the White characters referring to their "mystic mumbo jumbo," laughing at how easy they are to fool. Only three Indigenous characters have speaking roles: One is depicted as a tyrannical priest obsessed with human sacrifice. Another -- the only woman with a speaking part -- is hypersexualized and practically offers herself to a lead character. She shows intelligence and street smarts at the start but is reduced to being giggly and submissive when she falls for one of the leads. Otherwise, women are shown to offer gold and food, or carry babies. The song "It's Tough to Be a God" sees the lead characters dancing and imitating a god with six arms, and casually singing about psalms and salaams, which shows a lack of respect and understanding for the local religion. The film is historically inaccurate, using a White savior narrative to follow two likable White men who free the people of El Dorado from a maniacal Indigenous priest, and later protect them from colonization by Cortes, the real-life Spanish conquistador responsible for wiping out large portions of the Indigenous population.
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Violence & Scariness
Characters physically fight, including slapping and punching in the face, and there's also sword fighting. A human sacrifice is narrowly averted, though a person is pushed into a potion later and presumed dead. Characters are hit on the head with a bag filled with gold, bitten by a piranha, captured and shackled; they fall from great heights into swirling water (but survive); and a skeleton is seen with a sword through the head. A giant jaguar statue chases people, who are nearly crushed by other toppled statues. A character cuts their hand with a knife and wipes blood on a statue. People fire guns into the air in celebration. Characters make threats, such as "I'll cut you to ribbons" and a throat-slitting gesture. Stormy moments at sea, with shark fins surrounding a boat and a seagull eaten by a shark.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief, full nudity from behind after monkeys steal Miguel and Tulio's clothes. Characters flirt, kiss on the lips, give each other shoulder massages, and lie together clothed behind a couch, with kissing noises in background. An Indigenous female character is hypersexualized, walking with swaying hips and clothing that exposes a curvaceous figure. She bites her lip seductively and watches the men change. A suggestive comment wonders where she hid a pair of dice beneath a skimpy outfit.
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Occasional language includes "hell," "crappy," "dumb," "butt," "holy ship" in place of swearing, "oh my God" (as an exclamation), "creep," and "mincing twit." "Lying heathen" is said by a Spanish character to an Indigenous character.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters hold drinks with umbrellas and fruit garnishes, which look like cocktails. They raise goblets to toast, but they're spilled before they can drink. A horse appears drunk and falls over. Characters shown with cigars in their mouths; one is briefly lit.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Road to El Dorado is a DreamWorks animated film set in the early 16th century about two Spanish con artists (voiced by Kenneth Branaugh and Kevin Kline) who discover the fabled lost "city of gold" and are mistaken for gods by the locals. The portrayal of Indigenous people is racist, with the White characters poking fun at their customs and religion and a maniacal Indigenous priest shown to be more evil than the Spanish conqueror based on a historical figure, Cortes, who brutally colonized the region. An Indigenous female character is also hypersexualized in a stereotypical way. There's physical fighting and sword fights, blood from a knife cut on someone's hand, stormy scenes at sea, and a giant statue coming to life and terrorizing the city. Brief nudity is shown from behind in a nonsexual context, and there are scenes of flirting and kissing. Occasional language includes "hell," "crappy," etc. The overall tone is light and humorous, but the racist portrayal of people and events means parents may want to discuss some of the themes and historical accuracy with kids, while the younger ones could also find the frightening scenes too much. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie has aged poorly. While Branaugh and Kline bring great energy and character to their voice roles here, and there are some stunning backdrops and plenty of action, there's no looking away from the film's determination to run headfirst into the White savior cliché. It's a shame, because the dialogue is smart, funny, and impeccably timed, and the two leads are gifted a sweet friendship arc, but The Road to El Dorado's racist portrayals of Indigenous people and rewriting of Spanish colonization in South America very much dims its sheen. Even the Elton John-Tim Rice score is underwhelming, and songs seem to go on forever -- none coming close to the glory of their Oscar-winning The Lion King standard. Kids will likely enjoy the fast-paced adventure and moments of silliness from likable characters, but parents may want to discuss some of the themes and darker implications along the way.
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