02 June 2013

#2LR - The Princess and the Frog, Disney-fied.

Tonight's review will be the Disney film The Princess and the Frog.  I have a short confession to make; this probably should not have been a "Too Late Review", because this film is one of about two or three that I have actually seen in the theaters recently.  I suppose that I could have written something short about it when I first watched it... and, to be perfectly honest, I think that this would be the best frame to put the movie in, especially since my four-point scale goes from "would not watch again" (0-1) to "would see in the middle if someone started it first" (1-2) to "would rent again if the spirit moved me" (2-3) to "would buy and intentionally watch" (3-4)  After all, this movie did end up satisfying the second step, my children wanted to see it again.

  The quick Spoiler Space summary for this movie: Tianna is a poor girl in Louisiana, growing up alongside the rich man's daughter Charlotte.  Her daddy inspired a love of cooking in Tiana, and Tiana wants to open a restaurant (partly for her and partly in his own honor).  Tiana works two jobs nonstop in order to save the money, and Charlotte puts her over the top by catering a party for the arriving playboy/partier Prince Naween... it has always been Charlotte's dream to marry a prince.  Naween and his porter run afoul of Doc Facilier, a voodoo priest.  Naween gets transformed into a frog, and the porter is transformed into Naween.  Doc Facilier is trying to get at Charlotte's father's money by marrying the porter to Charlotte and immediately killing the father afterward.

  Naween escapes and finds Tianna at the party.  He thinks that a kiss from a princess will restore him, and asks Tianna.  Tianna does the deed but since she's not a princess, she ends up turning into a frog.  Both frogs escape to the bayou and find a alligator who plays the jazz trumpet (!) and a firefly whose familly leads them to the Good Witch of the West... err, Mama Odie, who they say has the power to restore Tianna and Naween.

  They find out from Mama Odie that since Charlotte's father is the "King of Mardi Gras", Charlotte is therefore the "princess" and has the power to turn Naween and Tianna back to human with a kiss to Naween.  Yeah, that was convoluted even for Disney, but we'll go with it for now.  Naween and Tianna go back to New Orleans, run afoul of Facilier and end up defeating him, and seemingly have the rug pulled out from under them by not changing back to human.  The movie ends with them actually and for really changing back, though the reasoning was even MORE convoluted than the plot point above... the two frogs decided to marry, Naween kissed the bride, and both ended up changing back to human because now Tianna was officially a princess... ha ha.

  One more musical number ends, and all exeunt from another Disney musical.  Spoiler Space over.

So!  With that being said, I do have some faint memories of seeing the movie the first time in the theater as well as the fresh memories from seeing it only a couple hours ago.  On the first viewing, the movie really is something to see and listen to.  What stuck out to me the most was the music.  It seemed that there was a different style of music for each number, and that it wasn't forced.  There was the obligatory New Orleans jazz number, there was a Revival number, there was a bayou swing number (with fiddles a-blazin')... it ran the gamut of styles, and I really admired the songwriters for that.

On first view, the story between Naween and Tianna was sweet as well.  They both pulled each other out of their comfort zones, challenged each other to grow, and seemed as equal a Disney romance as ever you could find.  This wasn't necessarily a man winning over a woman just as much as this wasn't a woman domesticating her man.  The emotion that the screenwriters created seemed a bit sudden even on the first watching, but felt overall genuine.

Of course, here is the fair warning.  My daughter stumbled into this when she piped up at the very end (spoiler!) "How did they get their clothes back when they transformed from naked frogs to people?"  I've watched my share of anime, especially magical girl shows, and I know that there is such a thing as ClothesSpace, where the girls' civilian clothes kind of get stuck in a subdimensional pocket and are with her once her magic dissipates.  However, this did start me to thinking about the movie as a whole.

There are two rather large plot holes to drive the proverbial Mack Truck though that show themselves even on the first viewing: that a princess can be created through a rigged election and is subsequently somehow invested with magical powers, and the final plot hole that allows everyone to return to their "real" lives at the end.  You scratch that surface and realize that there are further issues... a porter that gets trod upon, yet works for the crown prince?  You're telling me he can't boss anyone around at the castle?  Doc Facilier, worrying about money with all that voodoo at his disposal... well, I suppose some things never change, but he really didn't seem the money-grubbing kind, and the plan that he presented.... well, it was right at home within the story.  Doc Facilier's plans... would probably work better if the key theme was extortion rather than, well, whatever the heck he did.  Doc Facilier's cause of death was a bit of a stretch too, in a couple of ways.  Even the two lead characters were practically distilled into a single essence... the hard worker versus the hardly working, and it almost felt as if there was nothing further to their characters, especially Tianna.

This kind of illustrates the difference between a Number 2 and a Number 3 movie.  A Number 2 has the quality of being at least decent to watch the first time, but that rewatchability really has to be there for the movie to jump up higher.  I will admit, it really depends on how much a person is willing to allow the story to carry them on this movie.  I can not only see where some reviewers were unhappy about this movie, but also why some other reviewers really enjoyed the movie.  And that puts me in quite a bind too, especially since I don't want to cop out and give you two (or even three) different ratings for this movie.

Ultimately, the music and emotion really do carry this movie, and I definitely enjoy the overall message of the movie.  On my four-point scale, I would offer this movie a 2.7.  It's so close to a movie that I would rewatch if offered a choice, especially if there are children involved... that message and that music and that emotion are good for children to experience, I think, and allows you to bond with your children (or your significant other), and the one thing this movie does well is to whisk you away to another place.  It is a movie that I would need to have a cool-down period from though, in order to forget what I wrote two paragraphs ago... not exactly something I can say for movies such as The Princess Bride, or even Wreck-It Ralph

I suppose, in that way, that this movie is as bipolar as a frog and a human can be.

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