Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

Wow! What a start to this blog. This film is a sumptuous ode to the Walt Disney hey-day. The Princess and the Frog is the tale of Tiana (voiced gloriously by Anika Noni Rose), an industrious young woman in Jazz-era New Orleans who dreams not of falling in love with her Prince Charming but of opening her own restaurant. She is tough-minded, goal-oriented and ready to knuckle down to make her "wishes" come true. In other words, she is no traditional damsel-in-distress waiting to be saved. Tiana waits on no one.

The prince/frog is Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos). He is the opposite of Tiana. Raised in luxury, but newly cut-off, Naveen is a lazy, spend-thrift who wants to party non-stop. He is dismissive of his servant and any attempt to curb his pleasure seeking lifestyle. It is this laissez-faire attitude that sets him up for the fate that befalls him. The story is peppered with classic Southern icons including a Southern Belle debutante, her father "Big Daddy" (voiced by an exuberant John Goodman), and a Cajun Firefly. Finally, the magic and the danger is provided by the classic Disney villain -- this time "Shadow Man", a voo-doo doctor who uses shadows to gather his ill-gotten goods. His plot to rule New Orleans includes turning Naveen into the titled frog.

Now the point of this blog is for the adults to enjoy the film, as well, so I am not going to spoil the story with a full synopsis. It is, however, a fun tale of learning to balance work and fun, following your heart at all cost, and learning what really matters.

The animation is hand-drawn and it is beautiful. It is a love song to old school Disney with homages to many classic films. There is an alligator that looks like it is straight out The Rescuers. The dancing shadows are reminiscent of Peter Pan. The bayou is full of colorful animal characters and led by Madame Odie (a magnificent Jennifer Lewis), the animals dance in a glorious scene that hearkens all the way back to Fantasia.

The music by Randy Newman is strong, as always, and holds up to the classic Walt Disney standard. "When I'm Human" reminded me of The Jungle Book and Ms. Rose's voice soars with "Almost There". The voice acting is first-rate and spattered with instantly recognizable voices including Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard.

All in all, this film was terrific. It kept my six year old son mesmerized and kept my two year old daughter interested more than half the time (a feat in itself). It was rated "G" and therefore, had no questionable language which thrilled me. I will say that my son did get scared at a couple of moments but nothing that kept him from watching (he simply moved on to my lap). My only warning is that (SPOILER ALERT) a love-able character, the Firefly, dies. It is handled with sensitivity, however, and my son was only momentarily distressed.

Finally, I loved the message. The Princess was a modern woman with dreams of her own and the where-with-all to reach them. Her best friend, seemingly a shallow ditzy blonde proves her depth and friendship as she offers to do what it takes to make her friend happy, and love triumphs over all.

So I call this one a "Step Out!"


Overall: rope rope rope rope

Age Appropriateness: rope rope rope rope rope

Child Attention Span: rope rope rope rope

Adult Enjoyment: rope rope rope Photobucket