The Princess and the Frog
dir Ron Clements, John Musker
prd Peter Del Vecho
scr Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards
voices Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Peter Bartlett, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Randy Newman
release US 25.Nov.09, UK 29.Jan.10
09/US Disney 1h37
The Princess and the Frog
Kiss me and see what happens! Naveen and Tiana

rose winfrey howard
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Princess and the Frog Gorgeous imagery and an energetic story make this one of Disney's most enjoyable animated features. And the fact that the studio has returned to an eye-catching hand-drawn style is very good news for an industry that's in a visual rut.

In 1940s New Orleans, Tiana (voiced by Rose) has grown up with a dream to have her own jazz joint. But as a young black woman she has to work two jobs to make ends meet. One day the sinister Facilier (David) turns a visitor, Prince Naveen (Campos), into a frog as part of an elaborate plot to take over the city. But things don't go as expected Tiana reluctantly kisses the frog, and soon they're lost in the bayou with only a trumpet-playing gator (Wooley) and a lovelorn firefly (Cummings) to help them.

Despite several raucous twists and turns, the story is pretty simple, but the animation more than makes up for it. The film is designed and directed with wit and invention, constantly surprising us with gorgeous little touches and hilarious throwaway gags. Vivid colours, kinetic motion, a jazzy vibe and a wonderful sense of light keep us visually entranced, while the characters' vivacity keeps us engaged.

Within the confines of the fairy tale, the screenwriters have fun peppering the dialog with witty references ("You can't just wish on a star to get things!") and making the scary stuff genuinely thrilling. Facilier is a creepy villain, with his slithery physicality and vicious actions. He actually makes us worry as things get very dark along the way. During other scenes, the filmmakers pile on the verbal and visual wit, with several hugely endearing characters along the way.

Repetitive lyrics make Randy Newman's songs feel rather thin, although they propel the story nicely. Tiana's main theme "Almost There" at least has a nice hook to it. But what's really memorable is the way the film looks, with some truly cool sequences (there's not nearly enough of the Mardi Gras parade) and a remarkably nasty climax that actually makes us think. And it also makes this film feel more like Disney of old than the cheery, silly things we've become used to.

cert u themes, violence, suspense 13.Dec.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall