MOVIE REVIEW: The Princess and the Frog

On New Years Day, the daughter and I walk over to the Madison Theatre in Albany to see the new Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog. The movie had engendered a lot of buzz long before it was released because it would be the first black “Disney princess”.

I have to say that the marketing of the “princess” concept is as clever as it is annoying. It is a way to keep the old-line characters (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella) visible and up-to-date, and create a “lineage” that includes Beauty (of…and the Beast), Jasmine from Aladdin and the title characters from Pocahontas and Mulan. I should also note that the popcorn at the Madison is not only inferior to that at the Spectrum, but it costs more.

After at least six trailers, at least half of them sequels (or “squeakquel”, in one case), the movie finally started. In was hoping that as a G-rated movie, she would enjoy it.

The lead role of Tiana, a hardworking waitress who grew up in a working-class family, and is trying to follow her dream of owning her own restaurant in 1920s New Orleans, is played by Anika Noni Rose, who I recall from Dreamgirls (2006). While her childhood pal Charlotte is hot to get to meet the debonair, but lazy Prince Naveen, Tiana is only interested in her dream, until…the kiss from a talking frog.

I liked the film visually. The sequence early on where Tiana dreams of her own place is particularly vivid, and the songs are strong. My favorite may be Almost There; indeed, the brief reprise made me almost cry. I also loved Evangeline, sung by Ray the bug.

The great conversation was whether Disney, who has been rightfully charged with occasional racial stereotyping, could pull off a story without falling into the same trap again. I think it was pretty successful in this regard. The race/culture of the Prince was intentionally vague, and that was a smart, if safe, course.

There were people who noted the voodoo roots of the sinister black character Dr. Facilier – but hey, this IS Louisiana – and I think it’s countered by the mysterious Mama Odie. And I really believe there are those who are just loaded for bear trying to FIND a flaw. One suggested that the songs should have been done by black composers such as the Neville Brothers, rather than the award-winning, hard-working movie musician Randy Newman; such nonsense. Here’s a promo by Ms. Rose, as well as a link to all the songs. I was particularly gratified by this positive review in Racialicious.

Bottom line, I enjoyed it, I’m afraid far more than the daughter, who was frightened some by Facilier and more by his “friends on the other side”. She also was bothered by amphibians in peril, though she now denies it.

Unfortunate also is the film’s “disappointing box office” of $86 million. With ticket sales up generally, why did this film, released November 25, 2009, do about half as well as Alvin 2, released on December 23? Was it marketing? was there resistance by the audience? I don’t know, but I hope this movie finds its audience.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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