Monday, November 29, 2010

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

**except of my final post in the Disney Princess series for Worthy of Note. For the full article, please click here

Being a lover of the Art Deco Era in which this movie is set, I absolutely could not resist reviewing it. Like most Disney animated films, it's not without it's problems, but I still find a lot to admire in The Princess and the Frog. Pixar head honcho John Lassiter had a large part in the restart of the Disney hand-drawn features, and his influence shows clearly in the quality of this film, which is higher than that of any Disney animated film since Mulan (I'm not counting Enchanted since it was mostly live action). It also features an earnestness in storytelling that recent Disney fare seems to have forgotten in the din pop culture references and cheap humor, and I think that quality will make this film stand the test of time.

Perhaps the most enjoyable element of this film is the characterization, especially of Tiana and Prince Naveen. Ironically both are extremely materialistic, though Tiana doesn't realize how much that aspect of her personality has affected her. I feel like with Prince Naveen we get our first realistic depiction of royalty from Disney: a prince who's a selfish, womanizing spendthrift and plans to marry for money. This is an improvement because it shows young girls that having a royal title doesn't necessarily make a man a desirable mate. Whereas Charlotte is prepared to marry Naveen purely to become a princess, Tiana won't even consider him until he has a major change of heart. I also find Naveen's chagrin at being raised to be "decoratively useless"--i.e. having no life and survival skills--to be quite believable, a common complaint of coddled children. Tiana's simple act of teaching him to cook, therefore, empowers him to take control of his own life instead of remaining a sponge. In fact his fulfillment in learning that skill reveals to us that his whole previous lifestyle was really what Pascal would call "diversion," a ploy to distract him from his meaningless existence. Once Naveen finds a purpose in helping Tiana achieve her dream, everything else takes is proper place in the order of importance for his life. He can still have fun playing the ukulele on occasion, but fun is no longer the point of his life.

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