Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Disney's The Princess and the Frog SPOILER ALERT

After chatting with a friend a few weeks ago about how much they adored Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" and realizing I somehow skipped seeing that film, I decided to pick it up and give it a shot.

After surviving "Wall-E," "Ratatouille" and "Meet The Robinsons" I had become funny about Disney films.  Not that any of these films were bad films, but I am not a fan of the animation style and neither of stood out to me.  However, I do love "Bolt" and "Up."  That said I have been leery about diving in and picking up new Disney films.  I only finally rented "Tangled" last summer when the rave reviews finally peaked my curiosity and I love "Tangled."  "The Princess and the Frog" sort of came and went for me.  It was in the theaters, I remember a few friends taking their children to see it and then I never heard about it again until that weekend when a friend was gushing about it being a great story.  So on a whim I bought the film and had planned on watching it a few weeks ago, but after a very long sleepless day today I popped it in when I got home from work.

Now I really knew nothing about the background of this film.  All I remember about it was the cute teaser ad in theaters.  My friend gave me very little information and another friend told me to be prepared to cry.  That's Disney for you, always have to pull those emotional strings (and that's what makes them so good).  When I popped the movie in I had absolutely no idea it is set in New Orleans with a Mardi Gras flavor, or that it is set in the 1920's.  Being that yesterday was Mardi Gras I randomly happened to pick the right movie to watch.  I also adore the 1920's.  Every since reading Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl I have been completely in love with 1920's lingo and the Charleston.  If I lived in the New York City area I would take Charleston classes, because I have no doubt someone has to be offering one in or around Manhattan and one day I will live out that way.  I will.  Remember girls "don't take any wooden nickels from a drugstore cowboy."  I love that 20's phrase.

I also spent a portion of my childhood listening to Nat King Cole.  So jazz music has a special place for me.  The music also gave me memories of "The Aristocats" from childhood.

Anyway, I loved this movie.  Towards the end, as expected, I turned into water works.  Disney has this amazing way of really connecting the viewer to the story and all the character with in it, no matter how small.  I started sniffling when Ray was lost but when he joined Evangeline I pretty much lost it.

I really love how the characters wish on the stars by speaking to Evangeline (a star).  I couldn't help but feel a warm religious aspect to it.  As though they were praying to the stars.  Who hasn't wished upon a star?  Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio were not the first and are not the last.  I love that they brought that very classic Disney element into this film.

How does one not love all the colorful characters in this film?  My favorite is Mama Odie.  We are talking to a girl that love paganism and metaphysics (not physics, eek).  It's not a far stretch for me to enjoy to loveable kind voodoo priestess.  Psh, of course?????  Who doesn't love a friendly magic maker?  It is also an obvious nod to Cinderella's Fairy Godmother.  Not only as friendly magical help but also the noted midnight deadline.

Dr. Facillier (the Shadowman) reminded me of so many past villains.  The voodoo aspect immediately reminded me of the Sea Witch in "The Little Mermaid" but now that I think about it in regards to his practice, animated style, and physique he is a dead ringer for Jafar.  He really is Jafar.  He wants to remove Big Daddy the loveable king of New Orleans with voodoo and trickery just as Jafar wanted to remove the Sultan with his sorcery.  However, I found the Shadowman to be less sinister as he is a villain with a knack for fancy words and a slave to the shadows.  It's my only (and very small) concern with the story because I love a feel good happy story, but the villain and danger aspect was very small.  It was present enough to add to the adventurous story.

I also enjoyed Big Daddy and Charlotte.  What I particularly enjoyed about them is that they were not the stars of the film and not snobs.  I think it would have been easy to throw Charlotte into a spoiled wicked step sister role as she is chasing a dream of marrying a price, but instead Charlotte and Tiana (regardless of their financial differences) are true friends. She remains a carefree and happy go lucky character even when Tiana winds up with the Price.  Being happy for others despite our circumstances is something we can all learn from young and old (including me).

Oh, and what a role model Tiana is for children.  She really is a modern day Cinderella.  There is no doubt about that from the beginning of the film.  She believes in working for her dreams and that anything is attainable with dedication.  She winds up with animal friends, a voodoo priestess, a price, and instead of a castle a swanky restaurant that hits on all sixes.  It would be easy to say the story has been done before but this is the magic of reinvention that Disney excels at and they did a fabulous job with this film.

I do wish Disney had incorporated more 1920's lingo into the film, but the few that were there made me giggle with glee.  I wish everyone talked in 1920's lingo and I personally use (and hear) a lot of 20's quips in daily talks.  Cat's pajamas, cat's meow, the bees knees, applesauce, gold digger, heebie jeebies, etc.  For more 1920 slang this site is one of my favorites when I want a 20's giggle.  All this 20's talk makes me want to read Twenties Girl again.  I might have to do that soon.  It was one of those books I read in one day because I was glued.  Oh and they were dancing the Charleston at the end of the film.

"Yes, you wish and you dream with all your little heart. But you remember, Tiana, that old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help him with some hard work of your own. And then... Yeah, you can do anything you set you mind to. Just promise your Daddy one thing? That you'll never, ever lose sign what is really important. Okay?"
~ James "The Princess and the Frog"

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