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Vault Movie Review: “The Princess and the Frog”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Princess and the Frog

Theatrical Release: 12/11/2009

Theatrical Release: 12/11/2009

Synopsis

When Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) was a child, her and her father shared a dream of opening a restaurant in New Orleans. As an adult, this dream is still very much a passion for Tiana. She is a workhorse waitress, as she takes as many shifts as she can, and she saves as much as possible. She has nearly saved up the money to buy her restaurant, but a bombshell is dropped on her, making the restaurant of her dreams unavailable unless she can come up with the money to buy it immediately.

Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) was once a wealthy Prince, but he has been cutoff from his families' fortune. He has traveled to New Orleans to marry into a wealthy family, but he stumbles upon a mysterious fortune teller known as Dr. Facilier (Keith David). However, Dr. Facilier is no fortune teller. He practices dark voodoo, and turns Prince Naveen into a frog. After Tiana meets Prince Naveen in his frog form, she kisses him, knowing the classic tale of the Princess and the Frog and thinking that this will turn him back into a Prince. Unfortunately, this plan backfires, as Tiana is turned into a frog instead. The two must now embark on a journey to find someone who can reverse their curse, but the world has become far more dangerous for them as frogs.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Tiana & Naveen (+8pts)

Predictable Romance (-4pts)

Dr. Facilier (+5pts)

The Frog Mission (-4pts)

Louis & Ray (+5pts)

The Songs (-2pts)

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Pro: Tiana & Naveen (+8pts)

Was their romance predictable? Absolutely, and I will get into that later, but I enjoyed Tiana and Naveen’s shared journey. Both characters came from very different backgrounds. One was a devoted young woman who had worked incredibly hard for everything she had, but she had hit rock bottom anyway through circumstances outside of her control. The other was a proud once wealthy Prince, who had his fortune taken away from him, forcing him to find his own way. Despite their differences, both characters wound up being turned into frogs, and I enjoyed their journey.

Tiana was a resourceful character who always had a plan, and Naveen was at times helpless and absolutely willing to let others like Tiana do all the work for him. Both characters were forced to grow, as Naveen had to learn to act and take risks, while Tiana had to learn what was truly important in life. Their dynamic was fun, their character growth made their stories interesting, and their shared circumstance made way for fun journey and a clear objective to work toward. I liked this movie, and as predictable as their romance was, I enjoyed both of these two characters, as well as their relationship together.

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Con: Predictable Romance (-4pts)

The romance between Tiana and Naveen was incredibly predictable. This made some scenes and aspects of their story kind of boring. That being said, I do not entirely fault the filmmakers for this. They wanted these two characters to fall in love, and the movie was named The Princess and the Frog. If you know the gist of that tale, then you do not even need to start watching this movie to assume that they would fall in love. With this in mind, I thought it would have been a great opportunity to subvert expectations. Taking this story in a different direction would have made the main characters' interesting stories stand on their own, and it would have made this movie feel less predictable. Instead, they took the story in the expected direction, and the movie was kind of boring as a result of that.

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Pro: Dr. Facilier (+5pts)

I found Dr. Facilier pretty interesting. I had never seen this movie before, but I had seen American Horror Story and this guy reminded me of Papa Legba from that show. Papa Legba was in the witch season of American Horror Story. He was a voodoo spirit in New Orleans, and was basically the gatekeeper to the underworld. I found this character incredibly interesting, and Dr. Facilier reminded me a lot of him, so I naturally thought Dr. Facilier was an interesting antagonist as well.

Dr. Facilier was skilled in the art of voodoo, and his “friends on the other side” made him a dark force to be reckoned with. He was unable to use magic on himself, but his plan to achieve power was to make deals with powerful people in exchange for using his voodoo magic for their gain. Yet, as powerful and dangerous as he was, the knowledge that he served powerful spirits from the underworld made his story somewhat more complex. He did everything for selfish reasons, and he did it all gladly, but the threat of his “friends on the other side” turning against him if he failed went a long way in making this character feel interesting and desperate. Unfortunately for Tiana and Naveen, power and desperation are a dangerous combination for any antagonist, and Dr. Facilier was both of those things.

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Con: The Frog Mission (-4pts)

Pretty much as soon as Tiana became a frog, her and Naveen wound up in the forest and their mission was clear. I just was not a fan of how coincidental this whole mission was. To start, the two main characters had just become frogs, and the filmmakers established their sense of feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do about their situation. However, before the audience really had any time to be concerned about this, the main characters coincidentally stumbled upon a side character who knew about a voodoo priestess who was their best shot of being turned back into humans. The main characters then knew who they needed to find, but they still needed to find her. However, before the audience or the characters really had any time to worry about how they were going to find her, the main characters stumbled upon another side character who knew exactly where she was. This was all then made pointless later, which made this whole mission even worse. It was just mission full of coincidences, it had no payoff, and I thought the filmmakers could have done a lot better.

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Pro: Louis & Ray (+5pts)

These two characters were the side characters that were introduced as plot devices for the frog mission, and while I definitely did not like the convenience of their introduction, I still enjoyed both characters. Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) was a friendly, jazz loving alligator, obsessed with being able to play with the best jazz players in New Orleans. He was silly, he was clumsy, but he was innocent at heart, which made him easily likable. He wanted to help Tiana and Naveen, and he hoped that the voodoo priestess would also make him human, so that he could play jazz on the streets of New Orleans without people running in fear.

Then there was Ray, who was voiced by Jim Cummings, and while you may not recognize the name, you may very well recognize his voice. After hearing the character laugh and thinking it sounded a lot like Tigger, a quick IMDb search led me to realize this guy voiced both characters, along with many others. Ray was a firefly from the bayou, and he knew how to find the voodoo priestess. He was fearless, he was selfless, and he was hopelessly in love with someone he never met. Both Louis and Ray were funny, entertaining characters, but their stories gave the characters depth and heart, and I thought both characters were handled really well, despite the lazy way the filmmakers introduced them.

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Con: The Songs (-2pts)

None of the songs in this movie were bad, do not get me wrong, but I did not think any had the ear-bug memorability that songs in so many other Disney classics have had. As of now—only days after watching this movie—I cannot recall a single song from this movie. Again, I do not remember thinking any of them were bad while I was watching the movie. I remember the songs having life and emotion, but none of them will stuck with me, and I thought this was a pretty big missed opportunity for the filmmakers. The story was decent, and the characters were well written, but the songs were definitely one of this movie's weak spots. I certainly do not envy someone who is given the task of writing a catchy, memorable tune, but the songwriter of this movie definitely did not achieve that. They had jazz music at their disposal, and they had the culture of New Orleans to pull inspiration from, but I simply did not think any of this movie's songs were memorable at all—unless you watch the movie so many times that you start memorizing it.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (83pts)

I had never seen The Princess and the Frog, as when it was released, I was well beyond the age at which I saw every kids movie when it came out. Now with Disney+, I gave it a shot, and I thought it was a decent animated movie. Dr. Facilier was a powerful voodoo villain, and he was interestingly serving greater powers and being desperate not to get on their bad side. Then there were Louis and Ray, who were introduced in sigh-inducing, convenient ways, but they were fun characters that audiences will care about, regardless of how lazily they were introduced.

What made this movie so easy to get invested in were the two main characters and their dynamic together. Tiana and Naveen had different goals, and different backgrounds, but I liked their dynamic together. Was their romance frustratingly predictable? Yes, and was their frog mission filled with convenience? Absolutely, but I liked how these two characters interacted with one another, with Tiana being smart, determined, and resourceful, and Naveen being somewhat lazy and willing to let others do everything for him. I enjoyed these two characters and I enjoyed seeing them come together. I had some issues with the story, and the songs did not quite live up to the expectations that one would have for a Disney animated movie, but it was fun, it had heart, and I thought it was a decent kids movie.