Written by Ron Clements, Rob Edwards, Greg Erb, John Musker, Jason Oremland
Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker
Running Time: 1:37
The Princess and the Frog is a great throwback to the Disney films of the 90s with a good story, fun characters and a wonderful soundtrack.
Tiana is a young woman with a dream - to open up her own restaurant. But just when that dream is within reach, it's taken from her and she is forced back to square one. One night a frog appears in front of her who can speak and Tiana remembers a story from her childhood. So she kisses the frog, thinking it will turn him into a Prince. Instead, it turns her into a frog herself! Now, the two of them must venture deep into the swamplands to find the one woman who can turn them back into humans. But the evil Dr. Facilier has other ideas. He needs to keep them as frogs or else the bad Doctor will get taken to the other side and disappear forever. It's a race against time as Tiana and her Prince frog have only a short window in which to turn back into humans or else be forced to remain frogs for all time.
From November of 1989 to June of 1994, Disney had a tremendous run of animated success, starting with The Little Mermaid and continuing with Beauty and the Beast (the only animated film ever nominated for best picture - at least until this year I predict), Aladdin, and The Lion King (still the third-highest grossing animated film of all-time). Then their movies started to lose steam and become less entertaining. Sure, there were some good ones in there, but none had the same appeal as the big 4. Then the world of hand-drawn animation started to come crumbling down with CGI films coming to the forefront. But why early CGI got by on looks, nowadays we've come back to what really makes animated movies great - a fun story with great characters. It doesn't matter if the movie is hand-drawn, CGI or stop motion, what matters is whether you have a good time while watching.
I had a great time watching The Princess and the Frog. The story, set in 1920s New Orleans, deals with a girl who has a dream to open up her own restaurant. Her name is Tiana, and she (eventually) becomes the first black Disney Princess, but what's great about the movie is that they never really play that up. She's just another girl with a dream, working hard to make it come true. Her best friend is a rich white girl named Charlotte who also has a dream - to become a Princess, and when Prince Naveen comes to down, it seems at least Charlotte's dream with come true. But Prince Naveen may not be the nicest person around and his assistant has finally had enough. He enters into a pact with Dr. Facilier which turns the assistant into the Prince, and the Prince into a frog. Prince Naveen then happens upon Tiana who tries to save him by kissing him, only instead she then turns into a frog. Now they both must fight to stay alive and turn back into humans. It sounds like a Disney film, doesn't it?
The movie has all the hallmarks of a Disney film. Tiana loses her father early in life. She becomes a Princess. There's an over-the-top bad guy. There are talking animals. And there's a lot of fun music. But it's the characters that really make the movie come alive. Tiana is a very sweet girl and she's got such a kind heart that you immediately start rooting for her. Her best friend Charlotte could have been an evil stepsister type, but instead is very nice. The two met because Tiana's mom is a dressmaker and Charlotte's rich dad buys his daughter whatever she wants. But at no point does Charlotte flaunt her wealth in front of her friend. Instead the two are the best of friends, ready to help out no matter what the cost. Prince Naveen starts off full of himself, but comes around as the movie goes on. His journey is the one that has the most ups and downs when you think about it. Then there are the talking animals who come along for the ride, including a firefly who has some horrible things happen to him, but has the ultimate final ending.
The music is handled by Randy Newman, and I'll be honest, most of the time I'm not a big fan of his work. The nice thing is this time, we don't hear him sing, which I think is most of the problem I have with him. There are a good number of songs, including a couple of show stoppers that had my audience cheering by the end. Now that's something I haven't heard in a long time... an audience applauding during a movie for a song sequence. I'm glad Disney went back to what worked for them 15-20 years ago. While I love (some of) the CGI films of today, they can at times feel a little cold and there aren't many that have music. How many of us still own all the soundtracks from the movies I listed earlier? I've worn out my CDs listening to them so many times. Each of them had at least one (if not 2 or 3) classic songs that we still sing today. We can't say that for the CGI films of the last decade. I'm hoping The Princess and the Frog breaks through like the earlier films did and people pick up the soundtrack and listen to it apart from the film. Hopefully that would mean we'd get to see more films like this in the future.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I loved The Princess and the Frog. Great story, great characters and a great soundtrack. Definitely worth checking out and even I hope to see it a couple of more times in the theater.