My daughter and I went to see The Princess and the Frog (IMDB page) yesterday. She loved it, but I came away slightly more critical.
The plot is fairly complicated for a Disney Princess movie. Face it, they tend to be straightforward. Anyway, Tiana is a black waitress in New Orleans who dreams of converting an old warehouse to the restaurant that her deceased father always dreamed of opening. She grew up alongside a white rich girl named Charlotte, whose father was always commissioning dresses from Tiana’s seamstress mother. Now that they are grown, Charlotte has marriage on her mind and since Prince Naveen has just arrived into town, she knows just who the lucky man should be.
Except Prince Naveen has a few character flaws, which allows him to fall into the clutches of the evil witch doctor Doctor Facilier. Who turns Naveen into a frog to get him out of the way while he uses Naveen’s blood to disguise the prince’s not-so-trusty sidekick as the prince.
In the meantime, Charlotte hires Tiana to make pastries for her masquerade, where Charlotte intends to ensnare the Prince. The amount Charlotte pays, combined with Tiana’s savings, is enough for Tiana to put a down payment on her dream warehouse. However . . . well, there’s too many to mention.
The prelude of The Princess and the Frog is touching, gentle, and visually stunning. The problem is, the rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to its own opening scenes. It takes a long time before the movie reaches the point where the princess kisses the frog, and the action really doesn’t get going until that point. Unfortunately, once it does get to that point, it gets to be a bit much. There’s this long sequence where Tiana and Naveen are traveling through the swamp to get the help of Mama Odie, who practices her own magic. It was loud, frenetic, and that trumpet got to be downright annoying. My daughter and I were able to take a bathroom break without feeling like we missed anything. There’s a series of scenes where a group of hicks are after the frogs to have frog legs for dinner. Not only did it go on too long and was entirely too loud and annoying, but it was completely unnecessary to the plot. There were already birds trying to capture them, plus evil spirits sent by Doctor Facilier, so the hillbilly scene was just overdoing it.
I think all that time could have been better spent developing Prince Naveen’s character. He has a turnaround in his character, but does not ever really reach a low point that is usually necessary in order to make such a turnaround. In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast had a great low point, in which he was willing to let Belle go because he loved her. Naveen just (small spoiler!) decides he loves Tiana. And then he loses most of his selfishness.
I really wish they hadn’t made Mama Odie so ugly. I mean, yikes. What is with all the ugliness in animation? Old ladies can be attractive too, you know. I know she doesn’t look too ugly in this picture, but she was. On the other hand, some of the scenes in the swamp were as beautiful as the forest scenes in Sleeping Beauty.
Once they are out of the swamp, it’s a relief. The music calms down and the plot picks up. Facilier meets his end in Disney’s usual so-evil-he-does-himself-in way, Charlotte shows great kindness, and Naveen does the right thing. The ending is clever and touching.
I liked all the princess movies, and this one is no exception. However, I think Disney tried too hard to appeal to boys as well as girls. Here is how I’d rank all the movies:
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Little Mermaid
- The Princess and the Frog
- Sleeping Beauty
- Snow White
Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella all suffered from a lack of plot, which they filled in with cute animal scenes or cavorting fairies. The Princess and the Frog had rather too much plot. As you can see, I tend to like the more modern Princess movies the best, even ones like Pocahontas that didn’t earn great critical acclaim (although the kiss scene was slightly too wanton for a Princess movie).
I can safely recommend it as a worthy movie to add to your Disney collection. I liked it, and I’ll probably watch it again when it comes out on DVD, but I just didn’t love it.