Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Princess and the Frog (***1/2)

The Princess and the Frog. Written and Directed by Ron Clements & John Musker. Starring the voices of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, and Oprah Winfrey.

Disney's The Princess and the Frog is a refreshing and modest 2-D, hand-drawn animated movie that brings back some welcome nostalgia for early '90s classics like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. It's not quite a return to form, and Pixar's movies still have this one beat, but The Princess and the Frog does have a certain charm to it. Spinning the classic fairy tale on its head, the movie tells the story of Tiana, a strong-willed, hard-working gal in 1930s New Orleans with dreams of owning her own restaurant. When Prince Naveen comes to town and is turned into a frog by the sinister voodoo doctor Facilier, Tiana kisses Naveen to try and turn him back to a prince, but ends up turning into a frog herself. Animal sidekicks are soon introduced (a trumpet-playing alligator and cajun firefly), and life lessons are learned. There are several pleasant, if not quite memorable songs by go-to tunesmith Randy Newman sprinkled throughout, and it's in these segments that the animators really let their imagination run wild - creating some truly delicious eye candy. I especially liked all of the scenes with Facilier and his otherworldly cohorts, where the animation is striking and original, and frankly a little frightening for some of the younger kids. Perhaps most notable about The Princess and the Frog is the fact that it features Disney's first African-American heroine (and about time too). The depiction of 1930s New Orleans, clearly still in its glory days back then, is something new in animated movies and serves as a perfect backdrop for this story. I've read that Disney plans on releasing a hand-drawn animated film every two years in the future. If they're as enjoyable as The Princess and the Frog, that can only be a good thing.

- John


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