The Princess and the Frog

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Posted November 25, 2009 in Film

There is one princess in this new entry in—and prime example of—the Disney canon. The first is familiar: a beautiful rich blonde who would do anything to nab a prince. With her classic pink ball gown and dreamy blue eyes, Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) is the type of heroine Disney would slap on everything from sleeping bags to pencils. But when you look closer, those blue eyes rimmed with teary mascara seem kind of mad, nearly as crazy as her delusion that her prince will come. “You can’t just wish on a star,” advises her serving girl Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), and with that, Disney makes amends for three generations of mealy indoctrination. (And they’re fully aware of it—one of the guests at the diva’s soiree is dressed like Ariel.) Charlotte gets her prince. The catch is, he’s secretly the prince’s resentful butler (Peter Bartlett) who’s stolen his master’s good looks with the help of a dastardly voodoo doctor (Keith David) after a number that burns down the hut. (Their attraction and engagement is a mercenary riot.) The real Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos, hilarious) is a real charmer—too much so, as he’s just been cut off my his parents for squandering his life on girls and jazz. Now that he’s been turned into a frog, he’s no less slimy. Tiana is immune to his sweet talk, but not to his promises of helping her afford the rent on the restaurant of her dreams, a real swinging New Orleans joint that we’re sadly aware has a shelf life only as long as her life span. (She’s hardworking by choice—no evil stepmother needed.) Ron Clements and John Musker’s film has been plagued by the blogosphere, doubtful that Disney was truly committed to what they feared was a half-assed PC fairy tale. To mollify cynics and grumblers, Clements and Rob Edwards tweaked the script endlessly, changing their heroine’s name from Kizzy to Tiana, her profession from chambermaid to cook, the cartoon’s name from The Frog Princess to The Princess and the Frog. But they’ve got the best revenge: they’ve made a great film, one so funny, smart, imaginative, scary, sad and soaring, I was with it every step of its dance. Crafted in the 2D, hand-drawn style of classic Disney, the film explodes with visual whimsy when Tiana and Naveen are pitched into the bayou. There’s a choir of cranes, a larvae played like an accordion and a toothless firefly (Jim Cummings) who, yep, made me cry. Just as importantly, Tiana is a princess-to-be I would wear on a backpack, and I’m glad to see the blondes shove off and make room for her fabulous smile.

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