December 26, 2009

Princess & The Frog: Almost There

I finally got to see "Princess and the Frog" on Christmas Day (yes, I went to the movies on Christmas Day like a good Jew should). I've been anxious about this movie a long time- I'd heard unhappy whispers from people who'd seen story reels. But I must say I'm relieved now. It wasn't bad at all- not a bit bad. While it wasn't the "Little Mermaid" or the "Lion King" it needed to be to ensure a robust return of traditional animation, it was a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable film. The tone is a little reminiscent of "Enchanted", where Disney seems to be saying "We know the whole Princess thing is naive and silly, but aw, heck, its our bread and butter!" But the story is playful, and the characters are very appealing. Tiana, the new Princess on The Block, has all the elements of being a character I should adore. She's smart, independent, diligent, focused- but for some reason, she didn't have that certain oomph. She's the perfect role model, but not a particularly interesting personality. Just like Belle, the intelligent outcast bookworm, she seems calculated to be a positive female character, but there's nothing intriguing going on. (Just as in "Beauty and the Beast", this film is really about the Prince.) My favorite character was the Shadowman. The way he moved, the way he spoke- I was much happier when he was onscreen. The design of the voodoo numbers was just delightfully creepy- I wish the movie had a little less swamp and much more voodoo. The sidekick characters were not as annoying as you might suspect, and they actually worked well in the story. I was surprised by how much I liked the Charlotte character- I think she's a close second to the Shadowman. She was just so manic, like a little yappy dog- you had to like her. Oh, and the dream sequence! Absolutely gorgeous. The movie is worth seeing just for that.
The music was very...meh. I don't hate Randy Newman, but I don't really like him either. He just feels- safe. I doubt they'll be turning this movie into a Broadway musical anytime soon. But maybe thats not such a bad thing... As for the animation- it felt oddly sloppy. The major characters were mostly fine, but the secondary and background characters were just spilling over themselves, structureless. While I'd rather watch animation that's too loose than too tight, I was expecting more. Disney has a legacy of creating the finest character animation in the world, but this just felt rushed. I saw in the credits that animation had to be farmed out to several other studios- that was a little depressing. Also, the CG stuck out like a sore thumb. I don't know if it was the texturing, the rendering, or the compositing, but it just looked out of place.
But still, I enjoyed the film. It was meant to be entertaining, and it got the job done. This film has the makings of something great, but I suspect the studio would only fund something "good". But good is still good! If you are on the fence about it, definitely go see it. While it didn't make my dreams come true, it definitely put my nightmares to bed.

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