Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Movie Review: The Princess and the Frog

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements
Screenplay by John Musker and Ron Clements
Loosely based on E.D. Baker’s “The Frog Princess”

In an attempt to quench the thirst of fans who desire a return to the 2-D Disney animation style, the said company now brings its animation studio back to life with it’s first full length animated feature film, The Princess and the Frog.  Tianna, an independent young teenager living in 1920’s New Orleans, pushes herself beyond her peer’s expectations in order to pursue her dream of opening a restaurant of her own.  However, things go dreadfully wrong when a mysterious witch doctor, who will sacrifice the entire town of New Orleans to obtain riches and glory, turn Tianna and an obnoxious prince into a pair of frogs, and she only has a limited amount of time to change herself back again.  With the help of new found animal friends, she tries to find her way to humanity again and put a stop to the with witch doctor’s evil plot.

My Thoughts

I had my doubts about this film the first time I saw a preview for it.  Those doubts continually ballooned more and more as I constantly saw the previews.  From and entertainment standpoint, the film does its job.  It introduces lovable characters combined with wonderful humor and beautifully diverse animation styles.  But from a sociological standpoint, the film not only continues its sappy “searching for true love” type of story telling, but it borders on being a culturally insensitive storyline.

The story is roughly set in 1920 in New Orleans.  The setting and scenery are reminiscent of the world of Huckleberry Finn; very dirty and deep in the south, yet still has this upper class, elitist aura about it.  The film itself is very period appropriate and well researched with its accurate depiction of landmarks and machinery. (Steamboats, housing structures.)  However, the film forms a new picture of the south under the jurisdiction of Jim Crow, where we have a happily integrated hue of black and white folk.  Now being someone who doesn’t mind if a film is historically accurate, I do wonder if presenting a false interpretation of a terribly racist time period is a safe approach to take, especially with how influenced today’s youth is by film, TV and other related media.

Now, this “Disney Princess” story does break a few rules when compared to past animated films.  This film’s Protagonist, a young upper teenaged woman named Tianna, whose drive to open her own restaurant outweighs her need to find true love, which is close to non-existent.  Tianna even sacrifices time with her friends in order to save enough money to buy her restaurant.  This is not a common thread of a typical Disney Princess film; rather the film presents an argument that happiness does not magically appear on a silver platter, you have to work hard for what you want.  It’s quite refreshing to see Disney taking this new route.

However, this new direction only stands firm for the first half of the film.  We, the audience, are then spoon fed the classic, campy love story that also depicts a false sense of happiness and love.  Tianna, in the beginning of the film, is shown as a headstrong, independent female whose dependence on a man is slim to none.  However, at the same time, she doesn’t find happiness until she finds a man.  Here we have another false image of life being instilled in our young girls and boys, accepting the fact that women can only be truly happy if they have found true love.

Now the film has great artistic sense with the different animation styles.  Tianna’s fantasy was a fantastic musical number which was fun to watch and listen too.  I was even more impressed with the number of animators that worked on this film.  I have a lot of respect for artists/animators who have the ability to create very similar art; as if the film was drawn and animated by one person.  Along with that, the music is equally as good, yet not as memorable.  The music in past Disney 2-D films such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King were musical works of art in all their corniness.  The music in this film, while the songs were very well done, is not something I would want a steady diet of.

The films characters were all very lovable and contain the “over the top” expressions which truly define the classic Disney personalities.  Prince Naveen was hilariously arrogant and idiotic, which made him the comic relief!  And even though he looked strangely familiar to Prince Eric, Aladdin, and all the other Disney Princes, he seemed to be filled with more life and a love for being alive than all the other Princes in the Disney Repertoire.
A decent and fun film.  While the story can be found in most Children’s and family films, it is original in its own way.  It does raise a few eyebrows with me in the culturally sensitive department, and I did wonder if the film was going to end sooner rather than later, I did enjoy myself.  I won’t be going out of my way to purchase this film however.

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

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