The Princess and the Frog (2009)

The Princess and the Frog

Rated: G

Length:  97 min.

Age: 5 +                 Commonsense Media sez:  6 +

Scary Factor: villain Dr. Facilier calls upon evil spirits for help several times; three frog-hunters in the swamp shoot guns and whack each other around quite violently; shadow demons chase Prince Naveen; several close calls with alligators and other creatures in the swamp; death of a ‘good guy’ main character near the end is rather shocking and very sad; death of Facilier as demons drag him down into hell (presumably)

Intense: death of a main character is very upsetting, his funeral is shown with grieving friends, although in the end it is rather uplifting

Bad Behavior: some drinking in restaurants and parties, plus one brief gag re. a drunk at the masquerade ball

Language: “hell”, “crap”, insults (“stupid”)

Interests: frogs, swamps, New Orleans, jazz, magic, princesses

An ambitious young woman in 1920s New Orleans dreams of saving up enough money to open her own restaurant. A visiting playboy prince runs afoul of a voodoo man and is changed into a frog. Our young heroine Tiana kisses him, thinking he’ll turn into a prince, but instead she turns into a frog as well and the two are chased into the swamp, where they must dodge all manner of danger. With help from a trumpet playing alligator, a Cajun firefly and an old voodoo woman they return to the city in the midst of Mardi Gras, to try to regain their human form. Along the way they quarrel incessantly and, naturally, fall in love.

Tiana, as the first African-American Disney Princess Heroine, is a paragon of virtue, loyalty and hard work… although it is interesting that her ‘flaw’ seems to be that she works too hard, which seems like a strange thing to be criticizing. Her ‘lesson learned’ centres around the forced polarity of work/career vs. the ‘things that matter the most’ (the people you love, but most importantly: finding a husband).

That said, Tiana is still the most capable Disney princess yet. Not only does she not have to be rescued by a man, she actually saves the Prince’s skin. Prince Naveen is a rather lazy, pleasure-loving scamp but he is inspired and ennobled by falling in love with Tiana.

The filmmakers obviously wanted to dodge the whole problem of racism. In this story it’s never mentioned, and the white upper class of New Orleans (Big Daddy LaBouff and his daughter Charlotte) are depicted as benevolent and colour-blind. The only time it crops up is when the real estate agents make a sly reference to Tiana’s “background” to suggest that she’s not cut out to be an entrepreneur.

The whole voodoo thing is really spooky, and not for the very young. Dr. Facilier mentions many times his friends “from the other side”, and in the end they come to collect their due, dragging him kicking and screaming to his (unseen) death. A flash of lightning reveals his gravestone, complete with a horror-stricken portrait.

The hillbillies in the swamp are stereotypical gap-toothed, brainless yokels, and indulge in a lot of violent cartoon slapstick… as if stupid people hitting each other was the funniest gag going. Also in general a lot of “butt” humour… Ray the firefly claims “womens love men with a big back porch”, etc.

On the flip side, I was relieved to see that the rich, spoiled, man-crazy, Scarlett O’Hara-style Charlotte is actually a kind, good, caring friend to Tiana as well… and funny to boot. Phew – dodged that stereotype anyway.

In conclusion… A creditable addition to the princess collection, a thoughtful and well-presented role model of a princess. Some beautiful scenes, an action-packed story, jazz and Cajun tunes, and the Spooky dialled way, way up. Death of a good guy character is surprising and may be too much for the very young.

(This title on amazon.)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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