To surprise my girlfriend and satisfy my own interest, I took her to see The Princess and the Frog. It was an enjoyable experience only marred by the shrieking and giggling young adult women in tiaras that populated the theater. I guess I can’t really blame the movie for all that.
As everyone knows, this movie is Disney’s first hand-animation cartoon since 2004’s Home on the Range. Since it is also Disney’s first black princess, there’s been a lot of buzz and pseudo controversy over the movie its entire development. I was glad to see that the end product was one that would only offend someone going in and demanding offense, and that its animation and spirit were nearly as enjoyable as the films of the Disney Renaissance of the 90s.
I’m always skeptical of the ability of cartoons to make me laugh, but I did quite a few times during this film, including one joke near the beginning that I still haven’t stopped repeating in real life (Your head… it’s in the tuba). The humor was mostly spot-on, with a few unfunny jokes that are only to be expected.
The characters of the movie were also pleasant, though I know many critics disagree. I found the villain to be satisfyingly evil, and even though the song he sang wasn’t particularly interesting (nothing compares to Scar’s “Be Prepared”), the animation during the sequence was uniquely trippy.
Prince Naveen was hands down my favorite character, and I got a kick out of him as an arrogant but well-meaning guy. Even more impressive was Charlotte, who Disney could have easily turned into an antagonistic spoiled brat, but instead decided to make her a genuinely helpful and caring friend. Tiana was a strong and independent female lead, which definitely speaks well to a generation captured by Miley Cyrus, and although the movie kind of beats its message into you, it’s not a horrible message to have: work hard for things, but don’t live to work.
Other character aspects were lacking, however. Louie looks like a generic Disney alligator, an issue that seriously detracted from his originality as a character. And Lawrence fulfills a seemingly necessary role for Disney, that of the fat cowardice sidekick villain. I almost feel like children on Disney could be conditioned to fear and mistrust portly men.
Some of the songs, like the opening number by Randy Newman, were catchy and sounded enjoyably “Disney-ish”, but others also suffered from unoriginality and banality. At least the story is efficient and forward-moving – there aren’t really low points once the movie gets going, and the ending, though predictable and generic, is sufficient enough.
Although the movie might be a bit “light” and not have the power of the Lion King or the majesty of Beauty and the Beast, I forgive Disney. It’s been a while, and they’ve gotta dust off the old Disney magic. But at least they began with a strong enough starting point in The Princess and The Frog.
Final rating: 8/10
–James A. Janisse
December 18, 2009 | Categories: 8 - 8.5, Animation, Family, Genre, Musical, Ratings | Tags: anika noni rose, disney, john musker, keith david, oprah winfrey, randy newman, ron clements | Leave a comment