Thursday, July 08, 2010

Kissing Frogs Often Use Lots of Tongue

The Princess and the Frog

In Disney’s reworking of the classic fairy tale, The Frog Prince, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) has always dreamed of fulfilling her father’s legacy of starting up a restaurant. After one particularly bad day, Tiana meets a frog who calms to be a well known prince. Once a handsome young man, the penniless Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) was turned into a frog by the evil Dr. Facilie (Keith David). The only way to break the curse is for Prince Naveen to kiss a princess. As Tiana happens to be dressed as a princess for mardi gras, she decides to give Prince Naveen a quick kiss to see if that will work. Unfortunately the exact opposite happens and Tiana finds herself transformed into a frog as well. The pair soon find themselves on the run from Dr. Facillie’s shadow henchmen as they search for a cure to transform them back to normal.

It is nice to see Disney finally shine the light on a black princess for once, regardless of the fact that she spends the majority of the picture as a frog. I liked that Tiana is the most modern thinking female lead a Disney cartoon has had in a long time. Unfortunately the“traditional” Disney ending that this film incorporates is a bit of a slap in the face to both Tiana and young women everywhere. The Princess and the Frog uses the old-time Disney staple logic of “you can get what you want in life as long as you have a man first.” So instead of getting her restaurant first and then Prince Naveen afterwards; Tiana must do the opposite and first give up her dreams for love. Now I know that I am coming at this film from an older perspective, but is it not time for Disney to change the “prince charming is all you need” fantasy? Millions of young girls are growing up with the delusion that a husband is the key to achieving their career ambitions.


I would even be willing to ignore this fact if the male characters in this film were at least interesting, but none of them are. Prince Naveen, Lawrence (Peter Bartlett), and ‘Big Daddy’ LaBouff (John Goodman) are all one-note characters. Dr. Facilier has some nice musical moments but otherwise he comes off as a weaker version of Jaffar. Speaking of Dr. Facilier, he is by far the worst written character in the film. If you think back to all the great Disney films, the villains were just as interesting as the hero. Can you envision the Lion King without Scar? I cannot. When it comes to Dr. Facilier what do we know really? Everyone in New Orleans know he is a bad dude, but no one elaborates what he has done to earn that reputation. He apparently owes money to some evil spirits but the movie never explains how he incurred the debt in the first place. Also if Dr. Facillier has the ability to use dark magic, and is in desperate need of money, why did he not just impersonate Prince Naveen himself? It seemed rather silly using Lawrence to pull off such a ruse.

I will say this though, watching The Princess and the Frog reminded me of how much I miss the old school 2D animated films. Yes, there are some computer generated elements in the film but the bulk of the picture is a throwback to the animation style of classic Disney films of the 90’s and earlier. The character design, as well as many of the plot devices, reminded me lot of the film Aladdin. So it was not all that surprising to discover that directors Ron Clements and John Musker were also the directors behind Aladdin and other Disney flicks. The Princess and the Frog also does a good job at capturing the lushness of both New Orleans and the diverse mix of people who inhabit the city. The musical numbers are the highlights of this film as each one will have your toes tapping. The story in The Princess and the Frog may not be as compelling as the films in which it gives a nod to. Still, the movie did evoked enough nostalgia to keep me interested for a few hours at least.

5 comments:

  1. For some reason Disney brings out the non-cynical part in me. I see Tatiana's decision as less about finding a "prince" and just finding a family - the usual stuff really. Once she has that anything can happen...still trite, but a "good" message.

    My favourite thing about this movie though is Anika Noni Rose's voicework. Just great, I want her to get a real movie role now (she was the best thing in Dreamgirls).

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  2. @Andrew - Anika Noni Rose’s voice work was great. I have to disagree with you on Dreamgirls though, I found that she was overshadowed by Jennifer Hudson. I only really started noticing Ms. Rose once she started doing the “No.1 Ladies Detective Agency” series. She is fantastic on that show.

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  3. Sorry to hear you had some significant problems with this film. I haven't seen it yet and the reviews seem evenly split between the 'likes' and 'dislikes'. Guess I'll just have to give this one a shot one of these days.

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  4. @edgar - It is worth a rental but keep your expectations grounded

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  5. The thing that struck me about the film was how very carefully obscure they were about where the Prince came from. He's sort of Egyptian, sort of Indian, sort of Spanish, sort of Mediterranean (sp?).

    I cynically figured they didn't want to have a bunch of racists (on both sides) up in arms over a white woman and a black woman being attracted to a man who was the "wrong" race for them.

    The 1922 version of Othello (which can be found on the DVD for the movie O) very specifically said that Othello was born of an Egyptian father and a Spanish mother, thus explaining his dark skin tone, and assuring audiences of the time that he "wan't really black."

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