The Princess and the Frog
OH MY GOSH DISNEY FINALLY MADE A BLACK PRINCESS OMG OMG OMG!!!
(Sorry, I shouldn't have said that. But if you honestly want to distill all the buzz for this movie down to a single, shrieking sentence, that is what people remember about this film.)
Set in New Orleans, Disney puts a twist on the classic fairy tale The Princess and the Frog by making our heroine a waitress named Tiana, a young African-American woman who wants to open a restaurant. Through hard work she's nearly made her dream a reality, but her plans are derailed when she kisses a talking frog and is transformed into a frog herself. She and Naveen, a prince made green and web-fingered by the evil Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier. The two of them set off to find another witch doctor, Mama Odie, to undo the spell and make them human again.
I saw The Princess and the Frog in movie theaters a while back, when it was first released, but was underwhelmed so I didn't bother to write about it. Now that I've gone back and watched it again (thank you, Netflix, and your streaming video service!) I'm still disappointed. In its attempt to bring the epic fairy tale back to the its animation department, Disney steered off-course and failed to make this film as memorable as its classics.
There are lots of interesting things about the film. Certain animation sequences are just amazing to watch, like Dr. Facilier's "Friends on the Other Side" song and dance. Just watch it, especially the final minute:
It looks great! There's another scene, where Tiana's daydreaming about her future restaurant, that has a fantastic Art Deco vibe to it. And many of the scenes involving swarms of fireflies look downright magical. But other scenes are disappointing. Character designs for Louis the Alligator, Mama Odie and Ray lacked that something special that pushes a character from mundane to iconic.
UUUuuggggggggh. Ray. WHY DOES RAY EXIST? WHY IS THAT STUPID FIREFLY IN THAT MOVIE????
He exists so that the writers can crack multiple butt jokes. I'm sorry, when you have to rely on butt jokes for your humor, it is lazy writing. (Unless you're Monty Python. Those guys can make everything funny.) He is annoying. He is not funny. I guess for the "real" New Orleans experience they needed a Cajun somewhere, but why did it have to come in this obnoxious little incarnation?
Also, his songs sucked.
Actually, I wasn't too crazy about any of the songs in this movie. Something about them just seemed too slow, and with the exception of Dr. Facilier's "Friends on the Other Side" they lacked drama. When I was poking around the Internet, looking for information about the movie, I found that Randy Newman composed most of the songs. Suddenly, it all made sense. I hate that guy's music. (Sorry, Randy. I'm sure you're very nice in person.)
Now something that I have to rant about. Dr. Facilier. As Disney villains go, he looks pretty cool. You can't go wrong with a purple suit. Just ask the Joker. But he's sooooo lame! Sure, he has street cred - Naveen just mentions his name and Tiana knows exactly who he is - but he's weak. At the beginning of the movie, Facilier is turning tricks for small change. He has some powers on his own, but whenever he has a big scheme he needs help from his "friends". None of his schemes really succeed. His end is completely ignoble. Throughout the film, Facilier is just...desperate. He's not the "Mistress of Evil" or the "Most Powerful Sorcerer in the World!!!" He's just a small-time witch doctor playing out of his league.
One of those stars was purely because Charlotte is the best Princess side-kick ever. Seriously. Disney should make a movie about her. She's psycho.