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  Princess and the Frog, The Kiss On My ListBuy this film here.
Year: 2009
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Stars: Anika Noni Rose, Bruce Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Peter Bartlett, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Elizabeth M. Dampier, Breanna Brooks, Ritchie Montgomery, Don Hall, Paul Briggs
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Romance, Fantasy
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: When Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) was a little girl she used to accompany her seamstress mother (Oprah Winfrey) to her assignments, which is where she became friendly with Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), the daughter of wealthy New Orleans resident Big Daddy La Bouff (John Goodman). They both liked to hear the fairy tales Tiana's mother would tell, and the one Charlotte liked the best concerned The Princess and the Frog, because she liked the idea of marrying a handsome prince. Tiana, however, had the virtue of hard work drummed into her head by her loving father (Terrence Howard), so when she grew up she knew exactly what she'd be...

That's right, a waitress. No, what she wants is her own restaurant, but that is easier said than done as she has to hold down two jobs to scrape up enough cash to buy the place she has her eye on, and things are not getting any less difficult as the months go by. This is a Disney movie, so the unexpected is sure to happen at some point, and that unexpected thing was the studio making a return to hand drawn animation after seeing the rewards for such a style dwindle, with the previous of such efforts, Home on the Range, a film that did not set the box office alight, and was hardly recalled even a year after it had been released. But Disney listened to those who genuinely enjoyed that type of cartoon, and made this five years later.

As if seeking a unique selling point to give it publicity, they decided to feature in the film Disney's very first black princess, which saw them targetted for some odd criticisms from both sides of the political spectrum, but if there's one thing that is certain in animation, it's that somebody somewhere will take offence at Disney. It's something to do with their relentless adherence to the family friendly tag that renders them open to both urban myths making them out to be nothing of the sort, and actual slip-ups that the critics are only too happy to point out, but the fact was that The Princess and the Frog was a pretty big hit and most rational people saw it for what it was, not a racially contentious work but a clever, class-inflected variation on an old fable.

What happens is that Tiana raises the money to buy her place for the restaurant, but at a ball to introduce Prince Naveen (Bruce Campos) to New Orleans and more specifically Charlotte, she discovers that her dream is turning sour as the estate agents tell her they have received a better offer. She ends up covered in food for some reason, and Charlotte invites her up to her bedroom to change, giving her a princess outfit to wear, and it's there she meets the frog of the title. Except he's no ordinary frog, he's Prince Naveen! Yes, the royalty has been transformed into an amphibian by the voodoo practitioner Dr Facilier (Keith David) in return for some murky deal to transfer all the souls of the city over to evil sprits, and the only thing that will stop this is for Naveen to be kissed by a princess.

Tiana has the tiara, but she's not actually a princess, so after Naveen explains himself and she plucks up the courage to plant a smacker on his puckered up frog lips, something unexpected happens, landing her in big trouble and putting Facilier's schemes even closer to fruition. As an opening out of a fairly straightforward tale, this does satisfy, with its location of 1920s New Orleans a refreshing change from whatever fairy kingdom that might have otherwise been considered. Randy Newman provides snappy but not overwhelming jazz songs that sound authentic to the period, and the appearance of the film positively gleams, proof that in this age of computer graphics, something more two-dimensional can be just as pleasing, and in some cases more so. The contrast with the works too hard Tiana and the works not enough Naveen is nicely handled, promoting a message of the happy medium that is not laboured at all, and if there's a slight overabundance of quirky animals, then at least they championed the less loveable creatures. Both traditional and modern, this was a very decent if more modest than intended compromise.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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