Review of film: “PRINCESS AND THE FROG”
Original story by =
Anika Noni Rose
Elizabeth M. Dampier
" A bug's got to do what a bug's got to do! "
" A schemer, a conjurer and a sorcerer or sorts. ”
“ I love you, Evangeline! ”
“ No more Mr. Pushover! ”
“ Keep your slimy self AWAY from me! ”
“ Goin’ down the Bayou. ”
9 of 10 stars (per an advance screening of the 97–minute film scheduled for general release 12-11-09, tho it previously opened in NYC & L.A.).
You WON’T Rue that there’s VOODOO To Do!
On Friday December 4th, ABC TV (owned by DISNEY) had a special about the making of the soon-to-be released Disney film mentioned above. It was actually quite WELL-done, having “recollection” interviews with people involved in previous animated films they’d made (such as Elton John & Whoopi Goldberg of “LION KING”), etc.
… Regarding this new movie, they spoke of how a number of songs were being done by RANDY NEWMAN, who’d contributed to a bunch of previous Disney films such as the “TOY STORY” computer-drawn series done by their Pixar division…
… One of the fascinating tidbits mentioned was, the new “Princess” film [inspired by the old Grimm fairy tale] is Disney’s first totally HAND-DRAWN (2-D) animated film since 2004’s “HOME ON THE RANGE” (& the 49th in their Animated Classics series); they have announced they want a new film done that way every two years...
… The story in this new film is set in New Orleans during the “Jazz Age” around the 1920’s, & (as a “sign of the times”) highlights a mostly “COLORED” cast: Eudora (voiced by OPRAH WINFREY) is a nanny for a rich girl named Charlotte La Bouff (BREANNA BROOKS as a child, & then JENNIFER CODY as the older version) & her dad Eli “Big Daddy” (JOHN GOODMAN)…
… To play with Charlotte, she brings her daughter Tiana (ELIZABETH DAMPIER as a child, & then ANIKA NONI ROSE as the older version), and the girls remain friends thruout their lives…
… Tiana grows up in a loving family, including her Mom (who teaches her how to cook) & her dad James (TERRENCE HOWARD) who’s always supportive of Tiana’s goal to someday open her OWN restaurant…
… Tiana and Charlotte both fall in love with a visitor to town, Prince Naveen of Maldonia (voiced by BRUNO CAMPOS) -- but he chances to meet up with a VOODOO man Doctor Facilier (KEITH DAVID), who turns him into a FROG to try to get his wealth (with the help of the prince’s valet Lawrence, voiced by PETER BARTLETT)…
… Operating on typically-bad “commonplace” advice, Tiana at one point KISSES frog Naveen, hoping to turn him back into a Prince— but instead, that turns HER into a frog…
… They venture together thru a swamp to try to seek help at turning back into humans. Along the way, they meet a helpful Cajun firefly named Ray (JIM CUMMINGS)...
... and they meet a friendly alligator named Louis (MICHAEL-LEON WOOLEY) who loves to play the trumpet…
… Ray encourages the group to seek out the “Fairy Godmother” of this story, in the form of blind Voodoo priestess Mama Odie (JENIFER LEWIS), who’s a spry 179+ years old & happily sings & cavorts around with her pet snake Ju-Ju as she strives to help the involuntary amphibians…
… The movie is suffused with a fine series of MUSICAL numbers [released as a soundtrack in late November], in jazz, zydeco and other styles. You can watch the characters happily bopping around to these:
… “Down In New Orleans” (by Dr. John & later by Anika Noni Rose), “Almost There” (by Anika), “Friends On the Other Side” (Keith David), the hopeful “When We’re Human” (Michael-Leon Wooley, Bruno Campos and Anika), “Gonna Take You There” & "Ma Belle Evangeline" (by Jim Cummings), and "Dig a Little Deeper" (by Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie). The movie closes with "Never Knew I Needed" by Ne-Yo and Cassandra Steen…
… Will the frog-ified people (& others) become HUMAN as they hope?… Will there ever be a restaurant called “Tiana’s Place”?… I don’t think I’m “giving way” too much by saying, it’s apropos that the movie has a line about “dreams do come true in New Orleans”…
… The film has a bunch of typically FINE Disney characterizations, with Tiana (ANIKA) confident & optimistic, Voodoo-man Dr. Facilier (KEITH DAVID) as suitably slimy and evil, and the animal roles encouraging and lovable…
… The audience (mostly young kids) applauded happily and enthusiastically at the end, and the adults (especially from comments made to me) clearly had special appreciation for the unexpectedly-good MUSICAL numbers . As one guy commented to me, it’s almost certain to quickly be considered a CLASSIC…
( An aside: the drawn character of blind Mama Odie [see below] very much reminded me of the look of actress IRMA P HALL in her award-winning 1996 role as the blind Aunt T with Robert Duvall & James Earl Jones in “A FAMILY THING” [as in the photo below]!… )
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