Animated
 

The Princess and the Frog

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures


Reviewed by Melissa Minners

 

            Based on the fairytale The Frog Prince and E.D. Bakerís novel, The Frog Princess, The Princess and the Frog is a Walt Disney animated film released in 2009.  I had wanted to see the film while it was in theaters, but never had the opportunity and it was gone before I knew it, not always a good sign for such movies.  Having spotted it in the video store and knowing that Walt Disney has a habit of yanking such movies off the market to create a greater valued film upon re-release, I was determined to see this movie on DVD before it was too late.

            Unlike the original tale about the princess whose kiss releases a handsome prince from his spell, this is a tale about a young Louisiana Bayou girl named Tiana (Elizabeth Dampier) whose childhood is filled with such fairytales read to her and her best friend, Charlotte La Bouff (Breanna Brooks) by her seamstress mother, Eudora (Oprah Winfrey).  Tianaís father, James (Terrence Howard), is a hardworking man with a dream of owning his own high-class restaurant in New Orleans serving the finest of food cooked with his own hands.  Tiana shares her fatherís dream and wishes on a star that it will come true.

            Fast forward a decade to 1926 and Tiana is a nineteen year old waitress (Anika Noni Rose) working a number of jobs to save up enough cash to fulfill the dream of her now deceased father.  No longer believing in fairytales, Tiana knows that itís hard work and perseverance that will earn her enough money to make those dreams come true.  And of course, it doesnít hurt that her best friend Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) is one of the richest debutantes in town.  Her father (John Goodman) has just been made the King of the Mardis Gras and his guest is none other than the famous playboy Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruno Campos) and Charlotte wants Tiana to provide the food at her Mardis Gras party.

            But evil is at foot here and it is soon revealed that Voodoo practitioner Dr. Facilier (Keith David), aka: The Shadow Man, has devised a scheme with Naveenís valet Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) to get their hands on the riches of the La Bouff family.  They disguise Lawrence as Naveen and The Shadow Man turns Naveen into a frog.  Tiana comes across this frog and is shocked to learn that he can talk.  Frog Naveen persuades Tiana to kiss him, hoping that the fairytale ending will come true.  In exchange, he will supply her with enough money to start her restaurant. 

            But this is a fairytale with a twist - instead of turning Naveen back into a handsome prince, kissing Naveen turns Tiana into a frog.  Now, it is up to Naveen and Tiana, with help from Luis (Michael-Leon Wooley), a trumpet playing alligator, and Ray (Jim Cummings), a lovelorn Cajun firefly, to find Madame Odie (Jennifer Lewis), a blind voodoo priestess who may hold their last hope of ever becoming human again.  Along the way, in true Disney fairytale fashion, they fall in love.

            The Princess and the Frog offers quite a different spin on the old Grimm Brothers fairytale that I read as a child.  I found Disneyís interpretation of the old fairytale to be incredibly creative and quite enjoyable.  I loved the quirkiness of the characters and the messages that the film delivers.  There are two messages actually.  One reminds us to hold onto our dreams in spite of the obstacles that stand in your way and the other reminds us that love and family are the most important things we can have in our lives.  Very important messages to impart on viewers young and old.

            The original songs and music of The Princess and the Frog are mostly a mixture of jazz and blues supplied by Randy Newman, known best for his contribution to the Toy Story movie series.  Ne-Yo provided the R&B love song for the film entitled Never Knew I Needed.

            Despite the fact that this movie was marketed toward a young audience, I venture to say that this film is actually more suited toward the adults in the audience.  Itís the adults who will appreciate the hard work Tiana puts in to achieving her dreams.  Itís the adults who will understand quite a few of the jokes in the film.  Itís also the adults who will fully appreciate the importance of love and family.  It has been a long time since I have seen a Disney animated film geared more toward the adults than toward the kids and I say BRAVO.

            The Princess and the Frog is a perfectly enjoyable animated family film on par with Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin and Tiana is a great addition to the Princesses of the Disney franchise.

 

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