Review: Princess and the Frog
PLOT: Tianas father always taught her that success comes from working hard. Along with his family, he wanted to open the best restaurant in Louisiana and name it after his daughter. And when Tiana grows up, the dream of owning this special place is even more important. And when a real life prince arrives in town, she finds herself believing in an old fairy tale. When she realizes that the Prince has been turned into a frog by a local voodoo man, she decides to take a chance and kiss the frog. Well, this time, things dont always happen as a would be princess would hope. Once she herself is turned into a frog, she, along with the Prince, must find a way to get back into their old skin and bones.
Welcome back 2D animation! Disney is back on track this year, not only with their superb collaboration with Pixar and UP!, but now they offer a wonderful holiday treat with THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. As strange as it is to go back to 2D, Im happy to say that it is absolutely refreshing to see something this exciting and fun. Certainly, it is a smart move on Disneys part, if any of you have gone to a toy store lately, princesses are all the rage with the young folk. But this princess isnt necessarily a princess, she is a hard working waitress in Louisiana. Her best friend is a rich girl looking for her prince. And everything changes when royalty arrives. Thanks to the help of a little voodoo magic, spells are cast and creepy shadows make sure that the free spirited prince is cursed.
Now truthfully, Im normally not a huge fan of this type of Disney fare. Its been a long time since Ive really enjoyed one of their films aside from Pixar. But there is something that makes Princess and the Frog special, and for me, it really was the atmosphere. Co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker really create an enticing dish of gumbo with this fractured fairy tale. From the early moments as a young Tiana and Charlotte listen to stories about kissing a frog, this never feels like youve seen it before. When Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) grows up, we find that she is a breath of fresh air. She is independent, funny and she is a terrific role model for young girls. In fact, much of the reason that the film is so successful, aside from the terrific Louisiana mood and atmosphere is this exciting new character.
Not only is this a return to 2D, it is also a return to musical roots. And yes, that is a good thing. The music by Randy Newman is brimmed with Jazz, Gospel and Cajun spice. The sounds are alive and jumping, and while they certainly have that Randy Newman spark, they also work wonders with the images on screen. When Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) brings the house down with Dig A Little Deeper, it is a toe-tapping good time. Youve got the gospel choir singing along and you cant help but have fun. One of the most inspired songs involves Tiana telling her mama all about the restaurant that she will one day own. It is an inspired sequence and Anikas voice just brings it all to life. Im not even a fan of musicals in general, but I do love the sound that Mr. Newman has created here.
As for the animation, Disney scores here too. There is a lot of creativity behind all of this. When voodoo man, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) summons up his ghostly accomplices, the spooky shadows are wicked cool. It might get a tiny bit scary for really young children, as the shadowy demons move along the bijou, ready to capture a frog or two. But this isnt really anything new for children who are already used to the magic of Disney. After all, that witch in Snow White was pretty damn scary herself, along with countless other villainous creations. But it is more than just a interesting villain. I really loved the way that color filled the screen. Whether it be the dark shadows whenever Facilier was around, or the warm glow that surrounded Tiana, it all looked fantastic. This is the kind of movie that made Disney what it is. Princess and the Frog is a gem. A heartwarming story, a terrific soundtrack and a real feel good quality that will certainly have little girls all over the world wanting to be Tiana. Hopefully, none of them will try kissing a frog. My rating 9/10 -- JimmyO
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