Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quick Blurb Review: The Princess & The Frog

Okay, so I haven't really touched base on films intended for much younger audiences on either here or my YouTube account with exception of two posts. It may come as a surprise to some who read this, but I have a soft spot for kids movies. Many great films immediately come to mind: All Dogs Go To Heaven, The Land Before Time, the first couple of Shrek films, Aladdin, A Goofy Movie, An Extremely Goofy Movie (which is the only direct-to-video Disney sequel actually worth watching and could've done well in a theatrical run), Robin Hood, The Aristocats, Peter Pan. It's no coincidence that the last six films that I mentioned are Disney films because let's face it, there's a reason why people keep calling animated movies, regardless of what company produces them, Disney films, because Disney does it best. Lately, you can chalk that up to their collaboration with Pixar Studios to keep churning out well rendered hit after well rendered hit, but something about those films were missing something. Before you start sharpening your knives and flooding the comments with hate (provided you haven't closed this tab by now), I have a lot of respect for the Disney/Pixar films. Anyone who questions the impact that the Toy Story franchise has had on the animation world is a damn fool, even if the 3rd movie was a tad over-dramatic. Yet, after 5 years of CG Disney movies, the whole thing was starting get a little old. I remember saying to my brother, "The next generation doesn't know what they're missing with the older style animation films." Sure, Disney gave the hand drawn stuff a rest after the painfully mediocre Home On The Range but then they decided to dust off the drawing board and gave us The Princess & The Frog, Disney's first hand drawn film in five years.

The plot behind The Princess & The Frog is that Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) was raised in a work work work lifestyle and as an adult, she works two jobs to try and help bring her father's dream of opening a restaurant in New Orleans. Meanwhile, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) has come to New Orleans to try and find a wealthy wife to get himself out of a financial bind. There, he and his assistant are confronted by The Dancing Shadowman, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) who spins some voodoo magic to convince them that he can give them everything they ever wanted. Long and short of that, Naveen gets turned into a frog and in order to break the spell, he has to kiss a princess. At a costume party, he mistakes Tiana for a princess and makes her kiss him, accidentally turning her into a frog as well. They then go on a mission through the bayou to set things right.

Tiana is also the first Disney Princess to be African-American.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't really take a lot of notes of things to talk about while watching this movie because I was having way too much of a nostalgia trip with Princess & The Frog, so I'll talk about the movie as a whole instead. This movie continues the fine Disney tradition of leaving our main character with only one parent (father's gone seven minutes into the film. Wasn't surprised) but while it carries on this odd tradition, it also pulls out a lot of stops from the hand drawn Disney films that we loved. Elaborate musical numbers with people who can actually sing (Anika Noni Rose was in Dreamgirls), talking animals (including a Jim Cummings voiced Cajun lightning bug), really cartoony sight gags, large ballroom dances, wishing upon stars, it's all here. Not surprisingly, the movie takes a bit of a darker turn in the final act to bring in an element of peril and suspense, but when your villain is a voodoo twirler voiced by Goliath, then I'd be disappointed if it didn't get a little dark (seriously, the things that Fecilier summons to find the heroes are kinda freaky shit!). Watching this movie honestly gave me the sensation that I had back in 1992 when I first saw Aladdin in theatres.

Cynic Fun Fact: This was the first movie I ever saw in theatres. Too bad it was followed up by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

However, as much fun as I had watching Princess & The Frog, the film is not perfect. There's one scene where three hideously inbred hunters try and catch our heroes for supper that I felt was really stupid and not necessary. Being aimed at a younger audience, I can see why that scene was in there and will even let it go. There might have been a couple of parts trimmed down a bit to shorten the run time slightly and Tiana's friend was really annoying, but I think that was the whole point of her. Fortunately, those gripes don't overshadow the rest of the superb quality found in this film. If you've been wanting to revisit hand drawn Disney, give Princess & The Frog a shot. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

If nothing else, YouTube the song "Got Friends (On The Other Side)." It's quite the spectacle and shows that Keith David has a pretty decent singing voice, too.

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