“Princess and the Frog”: DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

3/17/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

"The Princess and the Frog"

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, written by Clements, Musker and Rob Edwards, 95 minutes, rated G.

By our guest blogger, Eva Medoff

As a product of the '80s, I couldn’t entirely jump on the 3-D, super-slick computer animation bandwagon--especially when the studios started to churn out unimaginative children’s films with characters that looked like plastic McDonald's toys. 2009 saw a resurgence in old-school animation, however, with stop-motion (“Fantastic Mr. Fox) and a return to traditional, hand-drawn fare with Disney’s “Princess and the Frog.” But that’s not all that’s new about this film. Unless you live under a rock, you’d know this is the first-ever Disney film featuring a black princess. Amidst a sea of controversy, “Princess and the Frog” has to walk a fine line between stereotyping and embracing black culture--and it does so, for the most part, with success.

Critics complained that the main character, Tiana, isn’t even a princess (she’s a waitress) and that she spends most of the film as a frog, rather than the beautiful black woman she is. Also held in contempt is that her love object, Prince Naveen, isn’t even black. Hailing from some far off land called Maldonia, his race is left a mystery. To which I’d say--these two end up falling in love, despite their race or background. And isn’t that the point?

Those arguments aside, the film gets the same Disney treatment that “Cinderella” or “The Little Mermaid” got. A young protagonist (Anika Noni Rose, with a voice like velvet) loses a parent (in this case her father), wishes on a star and lives happily ever after with a prince. Except this time our heroine is the daughter of a working-class seamstress in jazz age New Orleans. Instead of whiling away her time waiting for a prince, she wishes for the money to start her own restaurant and fulfill her father’s dream of bringing people together with music and food. Working two jobs, Tiana believes in pulling herself up by her own bootstraps. Her head is rooted in reality, rather than in the clouds. She’s a Disney protagonist for the recession-immersed 2009.

New Orleans is an inspired choice of setting by Disney. With flapper costumes, beignets and loads of jazz, the mood is upbeat and distinctive. As usual, the characters look like pure cartoon, but the background is stunning, with all the detail of the mansions in “Lady and the Tramp” and all the magic of their most fairytale creation, “Sleeping Beauty.” To top if off, we’ve got kittens, puppies, turtles and fireflies--all the cute trappings you’d expect.

Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) bursts into town like a frivolous hedonist, making girls swoon and bystanders break into spontaneous song. Turns out Naveen is an irresponsible slacker who’s been cut off by his parents and needs to find a rich trophy wife, fast. Enter Charlotte La Bouff (Jennifer Cody), Tiana’s childhood friend of sorts. A customer of Tiana’s seamstress mother, Charlotte is silly and spoiled, but not cruel. It’s interesting to see Disney avoid the obvious. Charlotte’s no wicked step-sister, but simply a pink frock-wearing Daddy’s girl who constantly acts as if she’s just taken a hit of speed.

Our villain is Dr. Facilier, a thin voodoo wizard with fish lips and a creepy shadow. Luring Naveen and his downtrodden servant Lawrence into his voodoo den, he casts a spell to turn Lawrence into a fake Naveen and Naveen into a frog. As the imposter prince, Lawrence will woo Charlotte, marry her and then split her cash with Dr. Facilier (or so he says). They simply need a constant supply of our frog prince’s blood to keep the charm working.

Naveen, of course, escapes and runs into Tiana. Given her costume party attire, he thinks she's a princess and thus convinces her to pucker up. But when they kiss, she ends up turning into a frog as well. The two wind up in the depths of the bayou, where they meet a trumpet-playing alligator (with all the pizzazz of “Peter Pan’s” Tick-Tock Crocodile) and raggedy firefly, Ray (coming the closest to stereotype, though charming nonetheless), who’s in love with a star he calls “Evangeline.” We get lots of New Orleans music and dazzling scenes in the swamp as Naveen and Tiana make their way to a witch doctor in the hopes of resuming their human forms. Disasters are reverted, opposites attract and miscommunication keeps them apart--just as in most romantic films. In the end, Tiana and Naveen must make a choice between what they believe they want (for him, money; for her, the restaurant) and what they need (love). You can guess how it ends.

Excepting setting, “Princess and the Frog” doesn’t tread much new ground. But that’s beside the point. The lack of a black princess in Disney’s repertoire (gyspy, Chinese, and Native American all have been done) was as appalling as it was glaring. This film, with its tried and true storyline and old-school animation, is attempting to go back in time and fix that mistake. We get woodland (or swampland) creatures, fabulous music and sparkly ball gowns--and that’s all any Disney fan would ask for.

Grade: A-

View the trailer for "The Princess and the Frog" below. Thoughts?

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  1. online movies said...

    lol now people change princess to black female character.. interesting, will watch with my family next week