| Walt Disney Pictures has struck cinematic gold with a perfect holiday treat for the whole family. This romantic musical fantasy adventure marks Disney’s return to traditional hand-drawn 2-D animation. Who says you need three-dimensional CGI? This return to the old style brings back nostalgic memories of “Cinderella” and “Snow White,” especially to the Baby Boomer generation.
The character designs and color palette are warmer, richer and better than ever from the creators of “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin.” You combine old-fashioned drawings with solid storytelling, a new set of lovely, adorable characters and a killer soundtrack by Oscar-winning composer Randy Newman (“Cars,” “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.”), and you have an enthusiastic movie worth talking and cheering about.
This fractured fairytale puts a new twist on wishing upon a star and the consequences of kissing a frog
The heroine of the story is Tiana (voice of Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose, one of the “Dreamgirls”), an African-American girl living in New Orleans during the Jazz Age of the Roaring Twenties. Her mother, Eudora (voice of Oprah Winfrey), is a fine seamstress. Her hard-working father, James (Terrence Howard), dreams of one day opening a waterfront restaurant featuring his famous Tabasco-flavored gumbo.
Tiana forms a childhood friendship with Charlotte (Broadway performer Jennifer Cody, now appearing in “Shrek The Musical”), the spoiled, blonde debutante daughter of Southern aristocrat “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman). The movie contrasts the lavish mansions in the Garden District with the row houses on the other side of the tracks.
Fast-forwarding in time finds Tiana working for tips as a waitress. She is saving up for a down payment on real estate to finally realize her father’s culinary dream. The charming and handsome Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Brazilian Bruno Campos from “Nip/Tuck”) arrives in New Orleans. He is hoping to marry a wealthy heiress, because his parents have cut him off due to his lazy habits. He has his sights set on Charlotte and her dowry.
Naveen and his servant, Lawrence (Peter Bartlett), fall under the spell of Dr. Facilier (Keith David), a voodoo charlatan. Naveen is transformed into a tiny green frog.
Charlotte is hosting a masquerade costume ball during Mardi Gras. She lends Tiana a beautiful gown and a tiara that make her look like a princess. Naveen convinces Tiana to kiss him. This begins an adventure through the mystical, alligator-ridden Louisiana bayous.
Naveen and Tiana are joined by Louis (Michael-Leon Wooly), a trumpet-playing gator, and Ray (Jim Cummings), a romantic Cajun firefly. They look for a solution to their predicament from the blind high priestess of the bayou, Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis), who has her own way of conjuring magic potions.
This movie is a lot of fu, mixing romance, cooking, comedy and choreographed musical numbers into an entertaining concoction. The two standout songs are “Down in New Orleans” and “Almost There,” which are presented back-to-back at the beginning of the movie.
The movie’s main message is that you can achieve your goals in life through hard work. The trials and tribulations faced by Tiana and Naveen make for a memorable journey to a silver lining destination of true love and living happily ever after.
This wholesome viewing experience will capture the beating heart of the inner child existing in all of us. One of the best animated films of 2009 that will endure as a keepsake classic.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"