Years before a single frame made it to the screen, Disney's latest movie, "The Princess and the Frog" generated a lot of talk and controversy about it being the first in the mega successful line of 'Princess' movies, to feature an African American princess. With airbags bemoaning that the mouse was once more trying to brainwash a generation of youth with some kind of politically correct message that never materializes in the new feature length film. Or as my friend put it, sometimes grown ups over think things. What "The Princess and the Frog" brings is a welcome return of the deliciously hand-drawn Disney animation style in a modern classic fairy tale that is sure to capture the hearts and minds of children of all ages.
"The Princess and the Frog" is also the first 2D feature film with Pixar's John Lasseter as Executive Producer and head of Disney Animation, and he didn't take any chances and wisely returned to the Disney talent pool to fish out the creative directorial team of Ron Clements and John Musker that brought the modern Princesses phenomenon to life with films like "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin". And so while "The Princess and the Frog" does follow the modern Princess movie formula they established in the early 90's, like any classic recipe, when prepared properly, it's a flavor that tastes great and in this case has been gleefully re-imagined with all new characters, songs and settings to enjoy.
Anika Noni Rose who busted out in the 2006 film "Dreamgirls" shines as Tiana especially during her stirring song of hard work and determination "Almost There" a sequence animated using a cut-out, and very hip and Flash friendly animation style that helps make it stand apart the rest of the film. However like the previous Princesses films, while the lead characters are fun to watch, it's the sets and supporting cast of heroes, villains and their songs that really make the magic sing.
New Orleans is as enchanting and dreamy as it could be set in the idealized era of the 1920's, streetcars, gumbo, and jazz music fills the air as the story of voodoo and dreams unfolds. Along the way we meet some friendly faces such as Raymond the Cajun firefly and his family and their songs of the cheerful spirit of the bayou keeps a toe tapping zydeco tempo but there's more to Ray who has a soft spot and everlasting love for his dear Evangeline. And then there's the trumpet playing Louis, who is part Armstrong, and all Alligator and who desperately wants his chance to play with a jazz band.
The villain is a smooth talking voodoo charlatan named Dr. Facilier with some so called friends on the other side that offer a lot of promises that never quite turn out to be as full as they sound. And with some Tarot card tricks is able to lure in the chump-like prince Naveen and his chumpier assistant Lawrence and gets them wrapped up in the evil plot that sets the story in motion. If there's a downside to "The Princess and the Frog", it's that we never get enough screen time with this terrific villain (as always!) and regardless of how cool it would be, we're not likely to see any plush versions of the stuffed voodoo dolls that come to life from the other side. "The Princess and the Frog" is a welcome return to the old-school Disney traditions that I hope will continue for years to come.
Wishing for more time with that gorgeous golden and blue top down shot of Louis, Tiana and Naveen as they first float across the Bayou just before they meet up with Ray. For Movie Magazine, this is Purple.
© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 12/16/09
Movie Magazine International
Movie Magazine International