16 January 2010

Review: "The Princess and the Frog"

Disney's newest film, The Princess and the Frog, is a blast from the past. It is a reminder of how animated films used to be made: hand-drawn (traditional) instead of computer-animated, like Up and Finding Nemo. The success of computer-animated films has been helped by both HD and 3D screens. Up was definitely not one of my favourite films this year, and Fantastic Mr. Fox made me yearn for more traditional animation. It is Disney's first 2D film since Home on the Range (2004), and the studio's promotion of the film rivals that of 2002's Lilo and Stitch. I have not enjoyed one of Disney's 2D films since The Lion King (1994), when I was 10. This may have a lot to do with my maturing taste in films, or just because Disney has run out of good ideas. Pixar has become the leader in modern animation, and most animated films produced lately are created with adult interests in mind (such as Shrek). The Princess and the Frog is based on the young adult novel The Frog Princess, and stars Dreamgirls' Anika Noni Rose as the voice of Tiana.

Set in New Orleans in 1912, Tiana is a young waitress struggling to earn enough money to open her own restaurant, fulfilling her father's dream. Her friend Charlotte's father, the king of Mardi Gras, is hosting a masquerade party and Tiana attends dressed as a princess. She is alarmed to find a talking frog, who claims to be Prince Naveen from Maldonia. He has been turned into a frog by the Shadow Man. Prince Naveen made a deal with the Shadow Man because he has lost his inheritance and he must find a wealthy woman to support him. The Shadow Man, with the help of Prince Naveen's valet, has used his powers to turn the prince into a frog so he may gain Charlotte's wealth. Tiana kisses the frog and is turned into a frog herself, leading to the main events of the film. It takes a long twenty minutes for the backstory to develop. The rest of the film has Tiana and Naveen in the bayou looking for Mama Odie, a voodoo priestess, with the help of Louis the alligator and a Cajun firefly named Ray. Other notable voice actors in the film include Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey as Tiana's parents, and John Goodman as Charlotte's father.

I did not enjoy The Princess and the Frog. I felt that the film took too long (20 of its 95 minutes) to set up the story. The Shadow Man was so obviously evil (similar to The Little Mermaid's Ursula) that it was too easy to empathize with Tiana. Did it feel realistic for Tiana and Prince Naveen to fall in love? Not at all. The film seemed very inconsistent and did not flow very easily. Comparing The Princess and the Frog to two of Disney's more successful films, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, it felt very flat and poorly constructed. The songs used throughout the film were not memorable, and I had forgotten them by the next scene. Like the poorly-made Nine, this is a film that would have done better without the forced musical numbers. There are a lot of other areas of the film that could be discussed, but on the surface it is not that enjoyable of a film.

My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

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