It's true what the critics are saying about The Princess and the Frog being a return to the Golden Age of Disney, when the animation was more "lovingly drawn" and its music charming, and, for the younger set comprising most of this audience, this is all the movie needs to succeed on a grand scale. I was glad my whole family took it in. Having just come from the jaw dropping 3-D in A Christmas Carol, I think its "bells and whistles” does for children what million dollar shoes do under a floor length ball gown; it just isn't necessary. My kids clapped and giggled over the Princess and the Frog, neglecting to ask me even once where the special glasses were hiding.
The stand out special feature of this movie is its heroine, Tiana, who works herself like a dog, though she looks a bit like Tyra Banks. Tiana is just as plucky, feminine and innocent as her predecessors The Little Mermaid, Jasmine and Belle, but noticeably different too: this is the first Disney heroine who shows ambition, work ethic and a dream of entrepreneurship that actually comes true. Tiana's fairy dust comes off the sugary beignets she serves as a waitress putting in double shifts to someday own her own restaurant. Now, we've all seen Disney characters wed because the caste system demands an arranged marriage, but we've never seen them set marriage as a goal, so they could afford to open up their own business and honor the memory of a father!
Tiana looks up at a quintessentially starry, Disney sky and asks for the courage to flirt with a prince, adding: "wishing on a star never works; only hard work does." Wow! I've never heard a Disney movie character talk like that before - this is a heroine who, if placed in Cinderella's shoes, would tell the mice helping out with the chores to stop fooling around and get back to work - but she would do it sweetly, so it's no wonder that Prince Naveen falls in love with her.
A host of memorable characters literally add sparkle to the film, especially a Cajun speaking firefly who dies in the "dabbing eyes with tissue" way that Bambi's mom did. The villain, Dr. Facilier is basically Jafar (from Aladdin), made over in the Bayou, where a swamp dwelling crocodile - the most unthreatening thing in the reptile world, at least as he's drawn here - made my son laugh out loud for minutes at a time. The "spoiled rich girl" character, the one who has the easy life Tiana covets, has also received an attitude adjustment that makes her seem wizened to current times; she's not shallow, vindictive and bland like the three stepsisters. She reminds you of Blanche from The Golden Girls and ends up encouraging the frog prince's return to the flesh, and his marriage proposal to someone else. I doubt I'd be spoling anything if I told you who that was...just see this movie, Sugar, and you'll find out!