| The Red Right Hand
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
Anika Noni Rose
You know the problem with Disney? They talk down and pander to children whereas Pixar release films that are truly suitable for the entire family, films that children can watch and grow with, gaining a new viewing experience over the years. As soon as Disney understand that recycling the same routine that served them so well over the last eighty-odd years is a dead-end street, they can go on to create something truly unique and worthy of the public's adoration. The Princess And The Frog was labelled as Disney's great return... sadly, it is not.
Set in 1920's New Orleans, The Princess And The Frog is an elongated tale of The Frog Prince - in other words, a charming Prince is tricked and turns into a frog and it requires the foresight of a wise princess to look past the froggy exterior and kiss the prince to break the spell, followed by happily ever after and all that good stuff. In this case, the charming prince is Naveen [Campos] of the very fictional Maldonia and the princess is a hardworking waitress called Tiana [Noni Rose]. Naveen's arrival in America appears to be one of sheer frivolity but it soon becomes apparent that his parents have cut him off and unless he settles down with one woman, he will suffer the life of a destitute. In stark contrast, Tiana's life is one of endless work, in an attempt to raise the funds to open a restaurant - the dream of her late father. The trouble starts when Naveen crosses paths with the voodoo villain, Dr. Facilier [David], who bewitches the prince, turning him into a frog. From then on the film (and I genuinely don't want to use this pun) hops along from development-to-development, introducing characters left, right and centre (usually through the medium of song) until its rather obvious conclusion.
Disney make no apologies and go all out in this attempt to breathe new life into their animated films. Visually speaking, the movie is a wonder to behold, resurrecting hand-drawn animation and vibrant colour design to an extent that to view it without a digital screen would be a crime. In addition to this, the voice actors all do a superb job with their typically 2D Disney characters but each is as recognisably loveable as the next, so it's difficult to complain. As stated, Disney's problem stems from the fact that they believe in their reign and rather than trying something new, they have decided to regurgitate everything old. This love and pining for the bygone golden era is another anchor weighing them down, with the directors preferring to execute musical numbers with the flare and flamboyance of a glitzy stage piece, ending with a finale that even pauses for audience applause. Speaking of the songs, I have to say, this is by far the weakest element. Hiring Randy Newman may have worked for Toy Story but the characters never sang and as much as I love certain Disney songs and films, there was almost nothing memorable about anything in this release.
Like, Bolt, the company has taken a positive step in the right direction but rather than reliving the glory days, this film feels more like 1996's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame -- all the components appear to be in the right place but it lacks a very distinct spark that films like Wall-E and Up thrive on.
5th February 2010
The Scene To Look Out For:
I hate the Disney quick-fix, I hate that it's not enough for the happily ever after, it has to be a completely air-tight happily ever after. I hate that there will be discussions of whether or not this first focus on an African-American cast is in any way racist. I hate that Disney have always relied on stereotypes to set their cast backgrounds while neatly sidestepping anything truly offensive. As such, highlighting a particular scene was a difficult choice. However, being a bit of an Art Deco nut, I opted for the wholly forgettable 'Almost There' song... at least, I think that was the title; I don't know, bloody Randy bloody Newman. Anyways, the scene itself is drawn very much with a sense of period style and although the song was lacking, everything surrounding it was extremely praise-worthy.
I've been a bit of a Keith David fan for many years now and his role as the villainous Dr. Facilier is no exception. Granted, the song (the villain's song was always a personal highpoint for me) could have been better but his character was still a well executed one - except for his hair.. that made no sense.
"You're finally getting into the music! Do you get my joke? ...because your head is in a tuba"
In A Few Words:
"Similarly to Bolt, Disney take a step in the right direction but they are a long way off the monolithic pictures that Pixar are currently releasing"