Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Set in Jazz-era New Orleans, a cook with big dreams and her friends try to help a cursed frog Prince.
It’s actually rather hard to sum up in just a sentence or two the plot for this diamond of a Disney movie. The setting is a wonderfully colorful old-fashioned New Orleans, and of course there’s Voodoo and dark magics afoot, in the form of Dr. Facilier, the Voodoo man who lays a curse on a visiting Prince, Naveen. Tiana, the main character of the story, is a very hard-working waitress with big dreams of owning her own restaurant, as her daddy always wanted to have but died before he had the chance. Tiana’s friend Charlotte is your typical white southern belle, except she truly has a heart of gold and she and her plantation-style father really do want to help Tiana. So when Lottie decides to have a costume ball to welcome the Prince (and hopefully win a marriage), nothing would do but to have Tiana cook her famous…I think they’re doughnuts, known as beignets. It also turns out that the visiting Prince is broke, and is looking to score a marriage with a wealthy Lady. And so on a fateful night, Tiana and the frog Prince meet, and mistaken identity leads to total disaster. Which leads to a glorious trek through the swamps, making many wonderful and strange friends on the way, to try and fix the curse.
I have no idea how Disney managed it, but they took a controversial faith like Voodoo and tamed it down enough for, I would guess, 12 year olds and older. And that really is impressive, I think. (I also thought Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame was way too adult.) Yes, there is blood and shadows and black magic, Dr. Facilier is after all a Shadow Man, and sadly that is how most of us know of Voodoo in the first place. However, Disney showed the lighter side of this faith too, the brightness and joy that is found in their worship of the earth and one’s own sense of self worth. And this is the best part, Disney managed to show both sides more or less without commenting on it personally.
Quite possibly the best traditional Disney-style (like The Lion King) cartoon movie to come out in years, this film is a delight to watch. The songs are catchy and back to a similar style and rhythm as The Little Mermaid. The singing animal friends are adorable, and they even managed to throw in something as sacred as an actual death and funeral. It’s a bit of a risk, but I think it’s a good thing for Disney to try, at least the concept that from death there will come some kind of life. And at the end, when the bad guy’s been vanquished, the heroes are all heroic and get everything they want, and everyone is smiles again, you can’t help but be glad that the Disney we knew and loved, seems to have returned.
The Princess and the Frog strums a banjo-beat, in a sky filled with dragonflies, twinkling stars and hope, right into your heart!