Wednesday, January 20, 2010
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG / ***½
Distributor: Buena Vista
Release Date: November 25, 2009
Running Time: 95 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Since 1995’s “Toy Story,” Pixar has become the preeminent studio for producing animated films. Disney was still producing some of their classic animated films as well, like “Tarzan,” “The Emperor’s New Groove,” and “Chicken Little,” among others. While some of them were quite good, they all pretty much took a backseat to outright classics from Pixar like “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” or “WALL-E.”
This past holiday season Disney threw their weight behind “The Princess and the Frog,” which is a throwback to Disney days of yore. The story is partly inspired by E.D. Baker’s novel “The Frog Princess,” and represents a landmark as it’s the first Disney film to feature a black heroine.
Said heroine is Tiana (voiced by Anika Nona Rose, of “Dreamgirls”), who works as a waitress in two different restaurants in her native New Orleans. Her goal is to save up enough money to open her own restaurant, which was a dream she and her father (Terrence Howard) shared when he was alive.
Tiana’s best friend of sorts is Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), the daughter of Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman), the richest man in town. Charlotte’s dream is to marry a prince and become a princess. Attempting to fill that slot is Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruno Campos), who is trying to find a gravy train to board since his wealthy parents have cut him off.
Meanwhile, the evil voodoo doctor Dr. Facilier (Keith David) is scheming to get at Big Daddy’s fortune. To that end he turns Prince Naveen into a frog, and convinces Naveen’s lackey Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) to portray Naveen and split Big Daddy’s fortune down the middle – 60/40, of course.
In his frog state, Naveen shows up to the masquerade brawl where he is supposed to meet Charlotte, and runs into Tiana instead. Tiana is wearing one of Charlotte’s dresses, so Naveen mistakes her for a real princess, and asks for a kiss to break the spell. But since Tiana is not a real princess, the kiss backfires, and she turns into a frog herself.
Even though they come from different worlds with different philosophies, Naveen and Tiana join forces to try and break the spell. Along the way they encounter a jazz-playing alligator named Lou (Michael Leon-Wooley), and a lovesick firefly named Ray (Jim Cummings). Altogether this is a very fun cast of characters that stacks up very well with those in the Disney canon.
The songs (by Randy Newman, of course) aren’t particularly memorable, but some of the images conjured up of the Louisiana bayou are outstanding and in some cases rather frightening. After years of CGI films it was delightful to see the old school animated style, and to see it done so well.
Theater: RDM Westroads 14, Omaha, NE
Time: 445 pm
Date: January 20, 2010