Monday, March 22, 2010

The Princess and the Frog

I finally got around to watching The Princess and the Frog a few days ago. Considering how excited I was about the Disney return to hand-drawn animation when the movie was released last fall, I'm pretty shocked at myself that I waited till the DVD release. To this day, I'd rank films like Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmations, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin (just to name a few) as some of my all-time favorite films. There's a warmth and a vibrancy to that manner of storytelling that for my money just can't be beat.

That said, there's a lot I liked abotu The Princess and the Frog, and then there's a lot that left me rather underwhelmed. Let's start with that I liked. First of all, the look of the movie is just spectacular. Everything from the color palette to the detail with which the animation team brings 1920s New Orleans to life is a veritable feast for the eyes. I really appreciated the out-of-the-box thinking that brought the fairy tale of the princess kissing a frog to life in a "real world" setting like New Orleans. The relatively modern setting and the multi-cultural cast really set this movie apart in a great way. Also, seeing as I'm a long-standing fan of "warped" fairy tale retellings, anything to change a traditional story up and bring a new life or perspective to it, I will also say it was nice to see "tweaks" the script team brought to the traditional story, setting being just a part of the puzzle.

The songs are probably my biggest disappointment with the film. There's no denying Randy Newman's musical abilities, but personally they're just not my cup of tea. And I feel like his style of music has really been done to death when it comes to Disney/Pixar films. Everything just screams "sameness" to me. There wasn't a single song that really proved memorable, nothing that ranked up there with the likes of "Part of Your World," "A Whole New World," or the "Circle of Life." Also, the voo-doo villain just didn't work for me. I can't quite put my finger on - maybe it's the marriage of baddie voo-doo spirits operating in the relatively modern setting? Or just the voo-doo in general? Still mulling that over, obviously. The threat facing Tiana and Naveen just didn't flow as well as I would've liked with the way the rest of the story was set up, I guess. Speaking of Prince Naveen, it was a little annoying to have such a reality-based setting and then into that you plunk down a prince from some fictitious land? Oh well, c'est la vie.

The vocal talent is just terrific here. Anika Noni Rose does a fantastic job as Tiana - I think she's got a gorgeous voice. And one point in favor of the songs (*grin*), the melodies really do fit the setting well. Also, when Naveen is introduced I was sure I wouldn't like him - he's just so silly. But his character arc ended up being pretty well done, all things considered.

I think my expectations for The Princess and the Frog were unrealistically high, an equal mix of expectation and nostalgia. Because I don't think it's quite "as good" as "classic" animated Disney efforts, I ended up being rather ambivalent about it all, but upon reflection I'll end by saying this was definitely a step in the right direction for this type of film. No one can make animated magic happen quite like Disney - and I'm really looking forward to seeing their next animated film this fall, Tangled (the movie formerly known as Rapunzel, haha!!). It also helps that Zachary Levi, a.k.a. CHUCK (!!) is lending his voice to the film.


Laura Frantz said...

Ruth, As I've said before, I love your honest reviews of what works and what doesn't for you, be it in films or books, etc. So few do that! I love animated movies myself and some of my dearest childhood memories involve them. But since you are 20 years younger than I am, we won't go there:)

Heidenkind said...

It seems a little same-y to me to. I love hand-drawn animation, but this really isn't up the standards of Disney's better films to me.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like this movie. I was so happy Disney was back hand-drawn animation that I expected too much, so I was a lot disappointed. I really hated the voo-doo thing. I hope Rapunzel/Tangled will be better.

Unknown said...

@Laura - Thank you for your feedback, that means a lot. :)

@heidenkind - I agree, it's not quite there, but it's a step in the right direction...hopefully that will bear out w/ the release of Tangled this fall.

@mrsthorntondarcy - The voo-doo thing really diminished my overall enjoyment of the story too, so I know exactly where you're coming from.

Jenny B. Jones said...

Vocal talent WAS awesome. I LOVED the first ten minutes with the young blonde girl (can't recall her name). That was the cutest and most hilarious moment. And I thought it was visually stunning too. Very cool mix of genres and flavors. And of course, loved that it was in New Orleans. If anything, I thought it was occasionally slow, but I liked it. LOVED the hand drawn approach. It was sooo good to see that again.

Unknown said...

@Jenny - Oh, the first segment of the movie was hilarious! I loved that little friendship!! So, so glad Disney is doing hand-drawn animation again...I really hope they take this & build on it & continue.