December 20, 2009
The premise, lightly touching E.D. Baker's novel The Frog Princess, which in turn was encouraged by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Frog Prince, turns the tables on the idea of a princess kissing a frog back into human form. Here, the cursed Prince Naveen (voiced by Bruno Campos) is from the fictional country of Maldonia and he along with the young restaurant entrepreneur Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) set out in search of Mama Odie (voiced by Jenifer Lewis), a voodoo priestess who lives deep in the bayou.
Almost no Disney animated feature can be complete without a cast of conventional non-human supporting cast. They are Ray, a hopelessly romantic Cajun firefly (voiced by Jim Cummings) and Louis (voiced by Michael-Leon Wooley) a sharp-toothed, trumpet-playing alligator who wants to be a jazz musician. To top the cast list is Dr Facilier (voiced by Keith David), an evil scheming voodoo magician. Dr Facilier is very much like Ursella, the tentacled undersea witch from The Little Mermaid, or the vizier Jaffar from Aladdin. Instantly becharming.
The Princess and the Frog suffers from pressure to a large extent. Its princess, while appealing, is saddled with a narrative and cinematic burden which ultimately crushes her opportunity of being as captivating as Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Ariel (The Little Mermaid) or Jasmine (Aladdin).
Directors Ron Clements and John Musker, both reverend names with credits like The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Treasure Planet, work on autopilot conventionalities. And this conventionality shows in the film's production. The frames appear lackluster and uninteresting as the film's backbone — the music score and songs are by Randy Newman who replaced the regular and better equipped Alan Menken. While the songs do parade seamlessly enough, they do not own the spontaneous magnetism of Menken's works.
The last animated musical feature from Disney Animation Studios was 2004's Home on the Range, an impending tragedy of flawed marketing. Range, while not a contender in the classic princess fairytale line, is better than Enchanted (a pseudo return to 2D animation with Amy Adams) and The Princess and the Frog.
It is hoped that The Princess and the Frog does good business. Two reasons its success would bring back 2D animated movies to the cinemas; and secondly because worse movies have made a ton of money.
Running to around 97 minutes, The Princess and the Frog is rated G for the generality of a direct-to-DVD release.