Hop to it

In Disney's delightful "The Princess and the Frog," her kiss is quite a miss.

Posted: December 11, 2009

The old-school Disney princess - we're talking Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty here - sweeps the hearth, does the dishes, and waits around, warbling "Some day my prince will come."

The new-school Disney princess - think Mulan and Tiana of The Princess and the Frog - pursues her dream (saving her nation, the family's bacon) and in so doing discovers a prince pursuing her.

In truth, the jazzy, pizzazzy, and enchanting Frog is a little old-school and a little new. Old-school in that it's the product of hand-drawn animation rather than the digital sort. New-school in that its scrappy heroine is both self-made and prince-completed.

And in truth, the film billed as the first Disney animation to boast an African American "princess" is really about a resourceful bootstrapper in New Orleans, a young woman allergic to the fairy-tale pap spoon-fed to young girls.

Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), daughter of a World War I soldier, James (Terrence Howard), and a seamstress mother, Eudora (Oprah Winfrey), is a Crescent City waitress.

She is also a would-be chef who balances two jobs - and many, many serving trays - hoping to save enough and realize her dream of opening Tiana's Place, a stylish supper club.

When Naveen (Bruno Campos), a playboy prince from the Mediterranean kingdom of Maldonia (somewhere between Mali and Macedonia?), arrives in town, hard-working Tiana hardly notices.

She is amused, though, at the intensity with which her childhood playmate, Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), daughter of the prosperous family for whom Eudora sews, sets her cap for the prince, hoping to trade in her cloche for Naveen's crown.

Then Naveen steps into some deep voodoo, courtesy of Dr. Facilier (Keith David), a trickster who turns him into Kermit. When Tiana kisses frog Naveen, he doesn't become a prince. Instead, she becomes an amphibian with a sticky ribbon tongue and taste for flies.

For much of this musical gumbo seasoned with Randy Newman songs, the frogs travel bayou and swamp to find the voodoo priestess Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis), who might reverse the curse.

Escorting them are a horn-playing gator named Louis and a sparkly firefly named Ray, the bioluminescent counterpart of Pinocchio's Jiminy Cricket. In one of the film's nicer subplots, Ray doesn't wish upon a star; he sings to one.

With eye-popping saturated color and streamlined figures, codirectors Ron Clements and John Musker (the duo behind the vibrant Aladdin) lovingly invoke Harlem Renaissance artistry.

While the songs in The Princess and the Frog generally are not up to the high standard of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, Dr. Facilier's showstopping "Friends on the Other Side" is almost as colorful and bouncy as Aladdin's "A Friend Like Me."

(With its spectral creatures and unleashed evil, this sequence might be a little scary for viewers under 7.)


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.

Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|