Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 14 December 2009
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
The Princess and the Frog
You won’t need 3-D glasses to enjoy Disney’s new hand-drawn version of the classic fairytale, but you might fancy a lily pad or two. This time around the Princess IS the frog, doing time as a mucous-secreting amphibian along with her Prince. But don’t call her slimy or she’ll turn all aquatic on you.
The story begins with two little girls listening to the original Princess and the Frog tale, both with very different attitudes about it.
Eudora (Oprah Winfrey, voice) is a seamstress who designs dresses for rich girl Charlotte (Jennifer Cody, voice) whose Big Daddy (John Goodman, voice) is well-heeled and indulgent. Eudora’s daughter, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose, voice) and Charlotte are best friends, although Tiana has been instilled with a work ethic while Charlotte just wants to marry a Prince as the ultimate short circuit to happily ever after.
Tiana is African American, with a good head on her shoulders; Charlotte is screechy and demanding and hard to tolerate for long periods of time. Years pass and the two become young women.
Set in 1920’s New Orleans, Tiana is now a driven, work-obsessed waitress – she has two jobs – who saves every penny toward the down payment of the building which will house her own restaurant, (featuring her daddy’s gumbo recipe). Eudora and Tiana’s late, beloved father James (Terence Howard, voice) are her hard-work role models.
One day, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos, voice) of Moldonia swoops into town in search of a rich wife (his parents have disinherited him for being irresponsible). This prompts evil voodoo practitioner Dr. Facilier (Keith David, voice) to concoct a greedy plan (communicable voodoo curse on Prince Naveen – he’s a frog and can transmit frogness to anyone who kisses him – which he gets Tiana to do) to get his hands on the perceived wealth the Prince’s marriage could bring, setting off a chain of events that lead to Tiana having a spring-loaded tongue that can snap a fly out of thin air. That’s a pretty far cry from having a flair for gumbo wouldn’t you say?
Seems everyone’s under a mistaken impression here. Prince Naveen thinks Tiana’s a Princess at first, then believes he must kiss Charlotte who’s father is Mardi Gras king for one day, making her a kind of Princess, although one on the clock (kind of like Cinderella). Tiana wants that to happen so she can turn human again as well. Neither frog realizes that they are meant for each other until entirely too many songs and adventures and close calls have occurred.
The film follows a tried and true formula, parts of which you’ve seen in other Disney classics. For example, two fate-destined lovers don’t take to each other at first (Beauty & the Beast) a carnivore learns to be vegetarian, even though it’s against his nature (The Lion King) and an imposter appears on the scene for a little added confusion (The Little Mermaid).
Animal sidekicks are required, you know. Accordingly, Tiana and the Prince, in complementary shades of green travel the bayou befriending a trumpet playing alligator, Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) and good hearted but dimwitted firefly Ray (Jim Cummings) in their search for voodoo priestess Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis, voice) who’s possessed of a little magic of her own.
Firefly Ray is a stereotypical Cajun (as if that mandates bad teeth and grammar) who is in love with a star, whom he takes for a lovely firefly named Evangeline. Louis just wants to be part of a jazz band, and does not perceive his new pals as appetizers.
Meanwhile, Dr. Facilier and his band of shadow spirits stalk the pair, while the clock ticks down to midnight and everyone’s future is at stake.
Co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements’ (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) film has no sense of segregation to it unless you mean the inter-species kind. Tiana needs no rescuing and that’s refreshing; in fact, she is the rescuer. As Disney’s first lead African American female, she is also their first workaholic (Cinderella’s labor was coerced, remember). The two manage to inject a predictability within the originality that’s a bit of a letdown – the premise was so promising.
The Randy Newman score is unremarkable, serving only to elongate the moments between relevant plot advancement, introducing each character along with their basic viewpoint to slow down the pace enough to justify calling this a movie instead of a 30-minute television special.
Although kids may jump at the chance to enjoy the journey, adults may find that this frog flick lacks the legs to take the required leap into classic Disney lore.