Our friend Monique from Moniqueblog has just wrote a review of The Princess and the Frog that she wants to share with our readers.
The review we are posting is a spoiler-free version but if you want to know even more about the film you can go
HERE and read the password protected spoiler version (password is “spoiler”).
REVIEW-The Princess and the Frog is Disney’s triumphant return to form
The Princess and the Frog –a story about how a hardworking girl is transformed into a frog-is what you get when you mesh Disney animators’ stellar drawing and character acting with Pixar’s philosophy about telling a non-pandering-to-kids, fun, and realistic story. Of course, I’m not trying to take away from the fact that Disney made great movies without Pixar’s help, such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin as well as fantastic movies from Disney’s first feature length film, Snow White, onward, but we all know how poor Disney’s storytelling ability had fallen since the ‘60s, and then again after the ‘90s renaissance. But there are quite a few things in this film that makes it stand out from its predecessors, including the greats from the renaissance.
The first thing that is different is the story setting. The only other Disney animated movie I can think of that takes place anywhere near the present is Oliver and Company, which is set in the then-contemporary ‘80s New York. With PatF set in the 1920s in New Orleans, the audience already feels one step closer to the main character, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose). Because everything is relatively present, the movie feels more grounded than most Disney movies.
Secondly, the screenplay—co-written by Rob Edwards, who has written for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, A Different World, In Living Color, Full House, and Disney’s Treasure Planet— who has written for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Full House—uses tried-and-true Disney conventions and turns them on their heads. Since this is a princess movie, we obviously need a princess, but this time around, our princess is a girl who is not brought up in any type of royalty, or even on the richer sides of town. Tiana is brought up in the Ninth Ward-according to the studies Disney animators drew for the movie-far from the Garden District her friend Charlotte (Jennifer Cody). With the exception of Aladdin, the princes that are usually in princess stories are generally bland and just…there, really. Do you remember what Prince Charming said in Cinderella? I thought not. In PatF, however, the prince is a real livewire. Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) is not only egotistical and vain, but selfish, spoiled, and player. When we meet Naveen, his immaturity oozes almost to an unbearable degree (which is a good thing), and you’re eager to see just how he is going to change as the movie progresses.
Other conventions played and fiddled with are the villain and the sidekicks. Dr. Facilier (Keith David) makes a very formidable villain for Tiana and Naveen, and his shadow “friends” are even scarier. It would be prudent to point out that his inevitable demise is scary in how gripping it is-you actually feel sorry for him in the end. But even with the small addition of pathos, be wise to debrief your young kids after that part, as it’s pretty emotionally powerful.
The sidekicks are not just 1-D characters just there for yuks, but actually have fully realized goals and aspirations. Ray the firefly (Jim Cummings) provides much of the heart of the movie, and is not only a fun character that utilizes a lot of Southern dialect not usually used in movies, but is also very sensitive and touching. Louis the alligator (Michael-Leon Wooley) provides most of the jokes as far as sidekicks are concerned, but he also has a dream of playing the trumpet in a jazz band. The secondary characters also provide a lot of warmth to the movie as well. Charlotte and her Big Daddy (John Goodman) maybe the rich foils to Tiana and her parents Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) and Lawrence (Terrence Howard), but they all provide the loving environment that the grounded Tiana grew up in. Voodoo queen Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) also provides a welcome bit of old-school wisdom and has probably made a few movie goers think “She’s just like my crazy grandma.”
Another thing the screenplay reinvigorates is the boy-meets-girl scenario. In typical princess movies, the princess is yearning for their prince to take them away from their awful situation, or, in Cinderella’s case, just praying for their luck to change. In this movie, however, Tiana isn’t waiting on anyone to help her reach her dream, and she knows that with prayers and wishes also comes hard work in order to reach a goal. When she does meet Naveen, however, they don’t instantly fall in love as prescribed in other princess movies; they get on each other’s nerves. A lot. It’s only when they get to know each other and understand each other’s struggles and merits that they fall in love. Their love story is a lot more natural than other Disney love stories (with the exception of Aladdin; Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship is very well choreographed). It’s refreshing.
Actually, how Naveen and Tiana’s relationship was approached was what really closed it for me. Like I said, usually, it’s the princess who’s gooey-eyed over a man; after they get to know each other, it’s Naveen, not Tiana, who’s the one that’s gooey-eyed over a person. From what I saw, he falls in love with her before she even realizes that she’s in love with him.
Overall, this movie is one that you really shouldn’t miss, whether you’re fan happy for the return of hand-drawn animation or someone who is excited to finally see a black Disney princess in a feature-length film. It is ironic that Disney first made feature-length magic with a story about a white princess, and now Disney is, in a way, starting over again from scratch, but a black princess is leading the way. It’s amazing how far we have come as a society, and as a people. Bravo, Disney.
Monique from Moniqueblog