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July 1, 2010

The Princess and the Frog

by Franz Patrick


Princess and the Frog, The (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

“The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to 2-D animation, was about an extremely hardworking girl named Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) who dreamt of owning a restaurant ever since she was a little girl. But it seemed as though her dream was always out of reach because of issues like not having enough money so she made a deal with a prince trapped in a frog’s body (Bruno Campos). That is, she would kiss him in exchange for a full payment for her restaurant. But it all went wrong when, immediately after she kissed the frog, she found herself trapped in a frog’s body as well. I liked this movie but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would because the middle portion of the picture was a little bit too messy. It felt like the main characters were in a swamp for so long that the story felt stagnant. Other than the scene when they finally reached a blind old lady’s house, there wasn’t much pay off during the whole ordeal. I thought it had a fantastic beginning, especially the opening scene when our heroine and her rich best friend (Jennifer Cody) were introduced as little girls, and a strong last twenty minutes when the prince, Tiana and a few friends they met along the way (Michael-Leon Wooley as a musical alligator and Jim Cummings as an energetic firefly) finally got out of the swamp. The villian named Dr. Facilier or Shadow Man (Keith David) could also have been much more menacing (he very much reminded me of Jafar from “Aladdin”) considering he knew so much about the dark arts. While he did have his cruel moments, especially toward the end when he subjected the lead character into an illusion, I felt like he was a bit one-dimensional. I did, however, enjoy the musical numbers which consisted of jazz and soul mixed in old school Disney style. Not only were they catchy, the lyrics were quite insightful. “The Princess and the Frog,” directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, was similar to Disney classics not only in terms of animation but the lessons embedded in those stories. Yes, it was nice to finally have an African-American Disney princess but I think it’s more than about color. The writers could have easily made the character as dumb (or “unaware” if one prefers to sugarcoat it) as Snow White (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”) or as reckless (though very charming) as Ariel (“The Little Mermaid”). Instead, Tiana is a very modern princess who chose to have jobs so she could be that much closer to reaching her dreams. This movie may not be as good as those Disney classics but the princess in this film is actually one of my favorites because she’s more realistic than most of them combined.

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