Wednesday, December 30, 2009

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG - review of sorts...

(I hate to call these sorts of posts "reviews" because I'm not all that critical normally, but I can't come up with another word to describe "review" will have to do...)

We got out to see Disney's latest "hand drawn" animation film, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG yesterday. I took my two sons, who were a bit reluctant simply because of the word "Princess" in the title. But I suspected that, just like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, SLEEPING BEAUTY and other films they've been coerced into watching, they'd be entranced anyway.

And they pretty much were. Some big laughs out of my younger (7 years old) son, and plenty of snickers out of the more worldly 9 year old, also.

As you probably know, the story is set in New Orleans, and starts with a young African-American girl and her wealthy Caucasian friend listening to the fairy tale "The Frog Prince" and then debating the desirability of kissing a frog, whether it will turn into a prince or not. We learn then than Tiana, the poorer of the pair, is the daughter of New Orleans' best seamstress and that her father dreams of opening his own restaurant.

Cut to Tiana, as a young woman, working multiple jobs to save money to fulfill her father's unrealized dream. Seems her father has passed on, and he never did get that restaurant. A prince, Naveen, comes to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and Tiana's rich friend has her sights set on him. But Naveen gets suckered into a tarot reading from the Shadow Man, who uses some voodoo on him and his servant, which ends up with Naveen turned into a frog and the servant changed into the likeness of Naveen. Circumstances collide and the upshot is that both Naveen and Tiana are turned into frogs, and they have to work their way through the bayous to find another voodoo practitioner whom they hope will be able to help them. Along the way they battle gators, Cajun frog hunters, and finally the evil voodoo spirits that the Shadow Man sends to recapture the frog Naveen.

This was a very good film, with layers of content, nothing too far beneath the surface, but still there nonetheless. I asked my boys afterwards if they liked it, and of course, they really did. I really liked it also. It was an entertaining story with a typical Disney message: Wants are different from needs. (It's funny because in dentistry we deal with something like this in issues we face every day, it seems.)

I loved the music, and the background animation was rich and detailed and exuded a magnetic charm - makes me want to get back to N'awlins. I don't think this film stacks up with the heavy hitters of the Katzenberg/Eisner times, but it's not too far out of the team picture. It's definitely a return to the formula that made Disney famous, then brought them back from the edge. If five stars is the best, I think I have to give this one 4 stars, maybe even pushing 4 and 1/2.


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