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Princess and the Frog, The (2009)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Musical
Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Keith David, Jim Cummings, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey
Ron Clements, John Musker
Ron Clements, John Musker
A modern twist on a classic tale, featuring a beautiful girl named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical bayous of Louisiana.
Princess and the Frog, The (2009) | Review
At Least It Isn't A Toad
Disney has a lot riding on this movie. Not only is it their first hand-drawn animated feature since the best-forgotten Home on the Range, it's also the newest "princess" film which I'm sure they're banking on spurring some Disney Princess merchandise sales through the holiday season. In fact, the marketing for this film has been going gonzo for quite some time now, so imagine how disappointed all those little girls will be who already have Princess and the Frog merch if this movie turns out to be a dud. Why, little social lives might be irrevocably damaged for life... or at least through middle school. Fortunately, The Princess and the Frog isn't a dud. Mind you it isn't great, but it is entertaining and enjoyable; not a classic, but not all that bad either.
For their latest animated effort, Disney wisely went back to draw from a well where they've had their most success: Disney versions of classic fairy tales. This time Disney puts their spin on the classic tale of a princess kissing a frog who turns into a handsome prince and they live happily ever after. In this version, however, there a few more complications and misadventures before we get to that happily-ever-after part, but that's where the fun lies. This is pretty familiar territory for Disney, the whole retelling of a classic fairy tale, and they show they can still traverse it competently by delivering some memorable characters, a surprisingly engaging story, and some pretty good tunes along the way.
If there's one major flaw with The Princess and the Frog, I'd say it's a bit of an identity crisis. The Princess and the Frog isn't sure if it wants to be a dignified fairy tale story in along the lines of Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty or a more manic comedic film like Aladdin or The Emperor's New Groove. The film switches between the more whimsical fairy-tale tone and the high-energy, manic, zany, slapstick comedy tone quite often, and the transition is almost always jarring. Now let me be clear, both are done well. The fairy-tale mood is appropriately soothing and wishful and the comedy is manic, fast-paced, and very often quite funny. However, it feels like there are two movies here that got shuffled together. A slightly more even tone between the two would have helped this latest princess seem a little less awkward arriving at the party so late.
I also want to mention that the spirituality in this film is pretty dark, even for a Disney film. The villain sings a song about his friends "from the other side" making it very plain this isn't just magic that's being used but the powers of hell and its minions. This is serious stuff, and the light-handed manner that it was often handled with made me a bit uncomfortable. One should never lightly toy with the spiritual world, especially the world of demons and their dark powers. Having a show-stopping Broadway-like song about dalliances with dark forces in an animated movie may make it seem like doing such things is really no big deal; not something I want my kids to pick-up on.
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