Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
DIRECTED BY: RON CLEMENTS & JOHN MUSKER
WRITTEN BY: ROB EDWARDS, JOHN MUSKER, & RON CLEMENTS
ORIGINAL STORY BY: ED BAKER ("THE FROG PRINCESS)
OVERALL SCORE: 6.50/10


Hard working New Orleans waitress, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) is accidentally transformed into a frog when she kisses the newly arrive Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) who was transformed himself after trying to get a local witch doctor (Keith David) to provide him with unknown riches.

Oddly dark, comically amusing, dreadfully formulaic, but still reliable. That's the best summarization I can come up with for this 2009 Disney installment. Following that same formula that a women can't find love until either she, or the prospecting male, is transformed into another entity of some sort, Disney rehashes everything in its power to bring this tale to life. Of course when you're producing the first ever Disney princess film centering on the trials of a black woman in the US... you're going to play it as safe as humanly possible.

To do this Disney relies on some old school functions. The crazed witch doctor/sorcerer (ala Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, & Snow White), the plucky side kicks (Mermaid style), and of course the random evil sidekick. In fact the only thing I can say that is truly new about the film is a presence of a strong central female character. In the past Disney "princesses" (with perhaps the exception of Pocahontas) were overly reliant on the male character in order to escape their predicament. Here, the female is at the crux of most of the action, and the two work amicably to find a way out of their problem... a very nice middle ground selection I must say.

Still, like my fascination for so many olden things, I found the combining of a modern flair with jazz, and that old school Disney style just the refresher I was looking for. The film works because it intends only to tell its tale without much in the way of social commentary. It doesn't weigh itself down with unnecessary side plots, and actually takes a few moments to develop its central romance (kind of). The songs, which are at the crux of any Disney animated film, are enjoyable, but all have this overbearing feeling of deja vu. The fact that this film failed to make as much money as Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 is sadly a painful statement on the current times we live in. Princess and the Frog may not be the most original film in the world, but it has all the class you'd ever want.

Despite its overbearing lack of originality, The Princess and the Frog is just entertaining enough to get your moving and grooving, well adapting the classic Disney formula to modern times.

8 better thoughts:

Candice Frederick said...

i actually think most disney films are formulaic. but it works for them. generally they're attracting children to the tehater and if you get too wild with your plot, it'll pretty much go over their head. i liked your review. i loved the movie. long time coming!

TJMAC510 said...

I actually quite enjoy the Disney formula. I mean countless number of romantic comedies come out every year and only a select handful have anything unique or memorable about them.

The same goes for non-Pixar Disney movies. I say that because (besides the Toy Story series) Pixar always has new, fresh and original stories. Sure they may play to stereotypes in other movies but the stories are usually for the most part quite fresh and original.

As for the Disney animated movies they have been the same since the start in terms of their overall formula. But its that heart that made me love this film. Tiana IS a strong woman which is something we haven't seen since Mulan. Its good to see a non "I need a man!" personality in a movie.

As for the other USUAL stuff I quite enjoyed it. Keith David is a very underrated talent in tv, film and video games and he really shines as Dr. Facilier and honestly will go down as one of my favorite Disney villains ever. And he will probably be one of the only things I remember.

I thought the voice acting was rather strong from the other people and while the songs are pretty stereotypical they have a nice Aristocats jazzy flair that I enjoyed.

I think your review is short, sweet and rather good.

Just thought I'd share my thoughts.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Watching this I couldn't help but wonder if it were a candidate for awards if the screenplay would be considered original or adapted.

Univarn said...

@Candice yeah, it works for them, but I've never been much of one to reward formulaic, but I won't give a film a negative score because of it. Needs something more for me.

@TJMac I agree about the strong woman comment, and Keith David has always been a major plus (though his part is under-developed). I just wish there was something more. I never felt that deep of a connection with the characters like I have in other Disney films.

@Andrew Probably original, but at the heart we'd all know it's adapted :).

Alex said...

Nice review- pretty much the way I felt about it. I liked the character of Tiana very much, but I'd also have to point out that Belle and Mulan would definitely also count as strong female leads in Disney princess movies (though that's about it).

I just hope Disney continues to make traditionally animated features sometimes. A world with nothing but CGI is a little depressing.

Univarn said...

@Alex yeah I didn't think much about Mulan, never was one that really stuck with me. As for Belle I was torn over whether or not I truly thought she was truly a strong, self dependent, character or strong, but still reliant.

DEZMOND said...

Oh, if could just dance and play as good as Louis :))

TJMAC510 said...

Univarn-I feel ya. Keith David is definitely underdeveloped (plot holes anyone) but still awesome...and still the only thing I'll remember.

That and I did think the connection wasn't there with the characters. I agree with you there.

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