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THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG

08-02-2010

After the huge leap forward in digital and 3D technology over recent years, this is a “back to basics” Disney cartoon, boasting old school, hand-drawn animation. Yet for all that, Adrian Goldberg finds its lacking in the company’s traditional sparkle.

Set in New Orleans in the early part of the last century, The Princess and The Frog tells the story of Tiana, the daughter of a seamstress who dreams of owning her own restaurant.

There are just two problems

1) she’s poor and 2) she’s black.

Heavy stuff, you might think, for a kids movie, but the politics of race and class – though undeniably present – are underplayed in this noisy, self-knowing tale.

In a witty inversion of the classic fairy story, Tiana sees the chance to make her fortune when she puckers up to a talking frog who claims to be a royal visitor - one Prince Naveen. One kiss is all it needs to break the spell…

The twist is that when their lips meet she’s the one who changes not him, and the green, four-legged pair end up eating bugs and scampering together through the Bayou, trying to avoid the voodoo demons unleashed by the sinister Dr Facilier.

As baddies go, the Doc is pretty scary – especially for younger kids, but they’ll be enchanted by the vibrant colours; not to mention the princessy banter between Tiana and her upper class Southern Belle pal Charlotte.

There’s also a witty score, specially written by Randy Newman, drawing on the jazz, blues and Cajun traditions of the Louisiana region – and guest voiceovers from the likes of Oprah Winfrey.

It makes for a decent enough hour and a half in the cinema, but this is no Disney classic.

Maybe it’s precisely because we have been here so many times before (black princess notwithstanding); perhaps it’s that the benchmark has been set higher than ever by modern classics like the Toy Story series or Shrek.

Whatever it is, don’t believe the hype. This is a proficient family movie, but no classic.

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