With The Princess and the Frog Disney returns to 2-D hand-drawn animation and before I even saw a frame of this film the fact we are heading back to what I believe to be the truest form of animation was enough to get me in a seat. Unfortunately this latest installment in the Disney Princess franchise isn’t the absolute knockout I wanted it to be, but I would still recommend everyone go see it and judge for themselves, if only to make sure Disney continues with 2-D animation as a regular alternative to the onslaught of CGI.
Set in 1920s New Orleans and sporting jazzy musical notes The Princess and the Frog tries much harder to be pretty than it does to tell a story. In fact, the villain in this film, the evil voodoo “shadow man” Dr. Facilier (voiced by Keith David), seems to exist merely out of necessity. Understandably this is something you can say about most any Disney villain, but something about this one did not interest me much as he sets his sights on… Hmmmm… I know he wants to be rich, but I also think he wants to take over New Orleans, but for what purpose I’m still a little confused.
Anyway, to accomplish his goals his attention is turned toward a penniless prince, whom he turns into a frog and uses a stand-in prince to worm his way into the heart of Charlotte, the daughter of the deepest pockets of the city, ‘Big Daddy’ La Bouff voiced by John Goodman. Things take a turn when the star of the story, Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), stumbles upon Facilier’s plot and falls in love with the unlikeliest of “creatures”.
As beautifully animated as Princess and the Frog is, it can’t match its beauty with its storytelling. The laughs are limited, the characters aren’t that interesting and the story feels so forced you never really feel its heart beating. Despite a lack of enthusiasm for Facilier, I enjoyed Keith David’s voice work as the film’s villain. I also really liked Terrence Howard as Tiana’s father in the film’s earlier moments. However, outside of a couple of wayward jokes by Ray, the Cajun firefly, it seemed I was forcing myself to be entertained rather than actually being entertained.
I’m mostly curious to learn how audiences react to the music of this film. Making use of several Randy Newman tunes, the stunning voice of Noni Rose and perhaps the catchiest of the bunch, “When We’re Human” the soundtrack is upbeat and straight out of the Bayou, but will it resonate with audiences?
Being a little down on this film, my biggest concern is Disney is going to use Princess and the Frog as a measuring stick to determine how many more 2-D films they are going to make or if they are going to stick with CG-animation. They pumped a lot of dough into this feature and it definitely looks like it, but the story can’t match the visuals. I’m dying for the heyday of The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin to return once again. Pixar is great, but there is something special about 2-D animation, it’s what I grew up on and it has that added touch computer generated animation just can’t duplicate.