Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Princess and the Frog

posted by Nell Minow
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:G
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:Kissing, some potty humor
Alcohol/Drugs:Social drinking
Violence/Scariness:Some scary images including skeletons, voodoo, alligators, characters in peril, sad deaths
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters, strong female characters
Movie Release Date:December 11, 2009
DVD Release Date:March 16, 2010

Disney has cooked up a yummy batch of gumbo with this blend of the past and present. “The Princess and the Frog” is a satisfying and thoroughly entertaining return to the hand-drawn animation that built the studio. Although it is set in 1920′s New Orleans, it has a modern twist with the studio’s first African-American “princess” — and this is not a heroine who warbles about waiting for the prince to come and rescue her. This is a working woman and the prize she has her eyes on is not some happily-ever-after fairy tale wedding. She wants to run her own business — a restaurant. Like Gepetto, she wishes on a star, but as her father advises her, “that old star can take you only part of the way. You have to help it out with hard work of your own.”

We first see Tiana as a little girl, playing with a good-hearted but spoiled little girl named Charlotte. They enjoy listening to Tiana’s mother, Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) read them the story about the princess who kissed a frog and turned him back into a prince. But Charlotte is wealthy and Eudora is employed by her father (John Goodman) as a seamstress. Tiana’s family may have modest means, but her parents love her dearly and she shares her father’s passion for cooking that signature New Orleans dish, gumbo.

When she grows up, Tiana (Aniki Noni Rose of “Dreamgirls” and “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency”) is working hard, determined to make her father’s dream of a restaurant come true. (It is implied that he was killed in World War I.) So she works two jobs while her friends tease her about not having any fun.

Meanwhile, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos of “Nip/Tuck”) arrives in town, hoping to marry a rich woman but much more interested in playing music and having fun. When he is turned into a frog by Voodoo villain Dr. Facilier (“Coraline’s Keith David), he must find a princess to break the spell. That does not include Tiana, even though she is dressed like a princess at Charlotte’s masquerade ball. He persuades her to kiss him by promising to give her the money she needs to get the building for the restaurant. Since she is not a princess, it goes wrong and she turns into a frog instead.

And that puts them on a journey through a swamp to find a way to become human again. At first the free-wheeling prince and the serious-minded would-be restaurateur have little in common. But soon, as they make new friends (a horn-blowing alligator named Lou and a brave firefly named Ray) and try to keep away from frog-hunters and other dangers, they discover that they get along. They inspire each other to be their best but they like each other for who they are. And that, it turns out, is the real magic.

There is some real Disney animation magic in the details of the settings, especially the jaunty New Orleans of the Roaring 20′s and a musical number in the swamp with fireflies that is heart-stoppingly lyrical. The lively score by Randy Newman pays tribute to the vitality of New Orleans influences, with some zydeco spiciness, but there is sweetness as well, especially when she sings about her dream for the restaurant and imagines what it will be like.

Because this is Disney’s first African-American princess, there has been some extra scrutiny and some extra sensitivity. Some have already been critical of the film because Tiana is not a “real” princess, because she spends a good bit of the story neither black nor white but green when she is a frog, and because her romantic interest is not African-American but from the fictional European country of Moldavia (Campos is from Brazil). There will also be criticism because of the voodoo (with some scary skeletal images) and SPOILER ALERT this is the first Disney film in my memory where one of the key sidekick characters is actually killed by the villain.

I like the fact that Tiana is not a “real” princess like Jasmine, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Ariel. Like Belle, she is non-royal, but romantically involved with a prince. More important, she is an independent, self-supporting, hard-working woman with ambition that goes beyond some sort of romantic rescue. The movie lightly touches on but does not ignore the racism of the era. I like the inter-racial romance (and note that the only other loving couple is Tiana’s parents, both African-American, voiced by Winfrey and Terrance Howard). Setting the story in New Orleans, an exceptionally diverse city, and in the 1920′s, an era of great creative vibrancy, was an especially clever idea. As for spending most of the movie as a frog; well Mulan spent most of her movie as a man. Transformation is at the heart of fairy tales. And in her human form, Tiana is as lovely as any Disney character in history, without being squeezed into a wasp-waist and harem pants like Jasmine. I have some smallish quibbles with the voodoo villain and some overly complicated plot twists, and a more medium-sized quibble with the death of a character. Though it is handled with some grace, it is still unnecessary and likely to upset some younger audience members.

But the movie is genuinely enchanting and the old-fashioned, hand-drawn, 2D animation has a timeless quality that makes us feel welcome. It turns out you don’t need CGI and 3D to feel that you can almost smell that spicy gumbo.



  • sportslo

    Someone told me interracial dating is at the center of this movie, WHAT? does disney not know values of a typical christian family or they dont care? I know my parents and even more so my grand parents are opposed to interracial relations, so i am not going to see this movie as it would insult my parents. This offends people of all races BTW.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Sportiso, it saddens me deeply to have someone claim Christianity as a basis for this hateful comment. I have no idea which “typical Christian families” you are referring to as the Christians I know and the Christianity I respect stand for love, honor, and equality for all people. What is profoundly offensive is your comment, but I am grateful that your ignorance and bigotry provide the most resounding rebuttal to your shameful views.

  • jestrfyl

    In this era of virtual “this” and HD “that there is a whole lot to be said for actual anything. I appreciate all that CGI can accomplish. But there is still the basic artistic value of applying paint and making it work. In terms of the racial question – no one seems to complain about the anthropomorphic characters, and what they say about he people upon which they are modeled. Death is real and for many who will truly appreciate this movie it is far more real than it has been for our kids from the insulated suburbs. And ANYONE who promotes the cooking and consumption of gumbo – there is a place in Heaven (Jimmy Buffett his own self wrote and sings – “I will play for gumbo”).
    And who holds what over whom here – Does Disney own Mr. Newman in some way or does he know something they don’t want told? He is becoming the one man Sherman & Sherman of the 60′s. I kind of like his music and all but he is no Menken of the 90′s. Oh well, Newman does have a good sense of the city and the time period.
    I am glad you gave it an A, even with the minus. I have been afraid that with all the hype it would not be all that good (I am always suspicious of mega-hype in films)/ I appreciate your thoughts and comments – as always.

  • Toby Clark

    “SPOILER ALERT this is the first Disney film in my memory where one of the key characters is actually killed by the villain.”
    This bit had me confused. Mufasa was pushed into the stampede by Scar. Kerchak was shot by Clayton. Commander Rourke threw Helga out of the balloon (although she didn’t die instantaneously, surviving long enough to shoot him down). And Judge Doom murdered RK Maroon and Marvin Acme.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Toby. I will clarify — I meant to say this is the first G-rated Disney animated feature in which the main character’s sidekick was killed by the villain. Can you think of another?

  • Toby Clark

    Well, Lion King and Tarzan were rated G, but those characters weren’t technically sidekicks, so I see your point. Thanks for clearing that up.
    I’m looking forward to seeing this one, in case it manages to launch another Disney Renaissance, the way the Little Mermaid did.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    You’re right, Toby. Parents of the main characters and bad guys often get killed, even in Disney animated G-movies. Remember Bambi’s mother and Nemo’s mother and the villains in Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Little Mermaid. But I thought it was very jarring, even though it was gently handled, when a loyal friend to the main characters is squashed to death by the villain in this one, even though it is gently handled.

  • Loron’

    It’s a very beautiful story, and a beautifully animated movie.

  • doopey

    Nell-
    Some of the other pro-family reviews have really called attention to the voodoo aspect of the film (in a negative way), but you only reference it. Is it a genuine cause for concern? Is it that much different than the “magic” featured in other Disney fairy tales? Thanks

  • J Hawkins

    Just saw the Princess & The Frog, I thought it was great and it allowed african-americans to see us in a different light. I am 58 years old and could not wait for this movie to come out when my grandchildren get out of school I will take them to see it. Great going Disney you made us look good! My grade is A+.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Hi, Doopey! The voodoo is going to be a problem for some parents because it is scary (creepy shadows, some frightening images of skeletons) and for some families because they object to any magic. I do not think it is more disturbing than the black magic of “Snow White” or “Sleeping Beauty” except perhaps that the story is less familiar so that may not be as expected. So the cause for concern will depend more on individual family priorities than the way it is portrayed in the film.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, J! I am thrilled that you enjoyed this wonderful movie. Let me know what the grandchildren think when they see it.

  • http://twitter.com/comay/ David Comay

    Thanks for the informative review! But I was surprised to see the Audience marked 4-6th grade. Do you believe it’s not appropriate for younger ages such as someone in kindergarten?

  • Tracy

    Just saw this one myself. At 18, it was a little strange, being the oldest non-adult, non-child there, haha (I’m away at college or normally I’d see Disney movies with my parents, making it less odd!).
    The death scene really made me cry– I might’ve actually cried harder than I do watching Mufasa die, though not as hard as I cried for Kerchak in Tarzan. The children in the theater didn’t seem bothered, though (a lot of parents had to explain the scene to their kids).
    The ultimate fate of the villain is pretty creepy, though– I can imagine it being tense and scary for little ones.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, David — Another problem with the limits of this system re age recommendations. I would say that it might be a little scary for some kindergarteners, though — for that age, parents have to trust their own judgment on how their children will react. That’s why I made the recommended ages a little on the higher side.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Great comment, Tracy! Thanks very much. And I hope you see it again with your parents, too!

  • Ben Osborne

    I just saw it and i loved it !…. I am an African American male and took my girlfriend who is in all actually Princess Tiana, in carnate! She loved it to… I think the thing were forgetting here is that it is New Orleans and weather we like it or not Voodoo (which is a mix of Christian tradition and African tradition ) is very influential in that time period. So Disney was on point with there research! Now we also forget Mama Odie..Who is an exact representation of Church Mother Atkins ( when she pulled out the the candy I almosted died !) who was supposed to represent the “Lighter Side” and Note the “Light” of the Firefly was always with them. I think they could balanced the focused a bit but over all it was awesome! Im glad little girls not have something of quality they can identify with

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks so much for a terrific comment, Ben! I am thrilled that you and your girlfriend enjoyed the movie and I agree entirely with your point about the reflection on New Orleans culture and Voodoo. I did not know about Church Mother Atkins, but will do some research, so I especially thank you for that. All best wishes to you and your own Princess Tiana!

  • Shannon

    I went a group of mom’s and kids this afternoon to see this movie. We all felt that this movie was inappropriately scary! While the story line was good, this sweet princess story was overshadowed by the unnecessary creepy, scary, evil looking characters and scenes! We had kids ranging in age from 3-11 and each of them were scared at one point or another. The creepy “ghost” type images and the voodoo “idols” were heavily used in the movie. The only discussion topic that came out of this movie for us was explaining to my 7 and 6 year old what voodoo is. All and all, we would have rated this movie so much lower!!! I would not recommend this movie to anyone with young kids.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks so much, Shannon! I’m sorry you had a bad experience but your comment will be very helpful to parents trying to decide if the movie is right for their families. As you can see in my review, I caution parents about the scary voodoo images and death of a major character and recommend it for 4th grade and up. I never recommend a feature film for anyone under 5 unless it is specifically directed at that age group, like the Clifford movie.
    I really appreciate your taking the time to write and hope you will let us know what you and your family think of the other movies you see as well.

  • Joe

    I’m actually a 19 year old male. I went to see the movie w/my little sisters that are 12 and 13. I found it completely appropriate for all ages. Just because some parents would like to shield their children from some obscurities in life that cannot be covered up like death and evil doesn’t mean Disney has to abide by their every rule. It was a wonderful movie with great morals and great animation! I’m glad to say that I can say that I enjoyed the movie very very much! It was a great addition to the Disney line of films. While I myself am a Disney fanatic. I would just like to say Disney did a great job with this one and I have no doubt next year’s Rapunzel will be great as well! =)

  • Joe

    And no offense Shannon… But Children under 5, should be kept at home. Not taken to the movies. Kthx.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Joe! As your second comment shows, “all ages” does not mean right for everyone. I agree that most feature films, even those rated G, are not appropriate for children under 5, and that death and evil may be a part of movies but the context and explicitness of the portrayal is not the same for children as for teenagers and adults. I agree with you that this is a magnificent movie and am especially glad to hear from a 19-year-old-male who is an unabashed Disney fanatic — I am, too. Thanks for a great comment which will be of great help to those trying to decide what is right for their families.

  • Michelle

    Give me a break. This show is being marketed to children in the preschool ages. Look at the toys, right in there w/ the disney princesses – Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and etc. The children who love these characters have great imagination and love to play dress up. That’s ages 3-5 and yes, older, perhaps. So now, I see this movie is rated G and you would think I should feel comfortable taking my 4 year old to it. And no?! That’s just crazy. Jo, if/when you ever have children, you’ll get it. And yes, children do start going to movies at preschool age.
    Michelle

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I appreciate the comment, Michelle, but please remember the rule on this site is that all commenters must be courteous and no insults about other comments are permitted. Children do go to movies as preschoolers, but as some of the other comments have shown, sometimes they are traumatized by what they see. Indeed, Michelle, I’ll bet if you ask anyone over the age of 20 to name a movie that terrified them when they were young, you will get an immediate answer. Just because a movie is marketed to children does not mean it is appropriate for them. The PG-13 “Avatar” is giving out toys with Happy Meals, but it is not suitable for children. Just because a movie is rated G does not mean it is appropriate for a preschooler. Some young children will be fine with this movie; others will not. Like Joe, I believe this movie is better suited to older children. And I do not believe that comments like “crazy” or “if/when you have children you’ll get it” are appropriate; I am sure you don’t want your daughter to talk that way.

  • Pam Cloyd

    Hi Nell, Long time no see! I just took my two kids to see this movie and they loved it. They had never been to a movie theater before (they are 4 and 7) and unfortunately I didn’t read your review until AFTER I promised them we’d go. (Getting antsy after two weeks w/o school.) I was nervous after I read your review but it was too late–we were on our way. I agree–we thought it would be appropriate for little kids because of the marketing. For other parents who are trying to decide:
    1. The scary voodoo parts WERE scary for my 4 year old. She solved that by burying her face in her papa’s shoulder or studying the back wall of the theater. When I asked her about it afterwards, she reassured me that everything was fine because the bad guys got swallowed up in the end and they are all gone now. My seven year old was totally unfazed.
    2. The death scene didn’t bother either of my kids but there were audible sighs from other children. Everyone loved the resolution to that scene, though. (And it was absolutely nowhere near as wrenching as the scene where Dumbo’s mom is in jail and rocks Dumbo to sleep!) Disney movies nearly always feature a dead parent and at least one wrenching scene. I’ve heard the emotional roller coaster is deliberately done–the catharsis helps us fall in love with the movie and characters.
    My older son had a lot of questions about voodoo that I would rather have skipped, but all in all we thought it was very good. We all loved the music, the humor, and I appreciated Tiana’s strong character and the other positive messages in the movie. I also liked how the rich girl Charlotte was not a caracture of the evil white ruling class–she was spoiled, but not rotten, and treated Tiana as a friend. This might not have been realistic for the period, but anything otherwise would have been pointlessly mystifying to my kids.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Pam, how great to hear from you! My best wishes for a great new year for you and your family. And I agree with you about Dumbo’s mom being locked up as one of the most disturbing ever. You are right about the narrative catharsis issue — that is an element of all successful stories. We have to connect to the characters enough to care about whatever it is they are trying to achieve and then we have to have risk, setback, and progress to complete the arc of the story. I agree with you completely about the importance of making it clear that Tiana wanted more than a boyfriend and that she was determined and hard-working — and about making Charlotte kind and loyal, if silly and spoiled. Even the VooDoo man was not as evil as, say, the villains in “Sleeping Beauty,” “Snow White,” “The Lion King,” or “101 Dalmatians.” Glad you enjoyed it! And I hope you’ll keep in touch.

  • JayBee

    I saw this movie the weekend it came out with a couple friends (sisters about my age). We’re all in the late high school/early college years, so it was quite interesting sitting in a theater full of parents and young children.
    Honestly, I probably enjoyed this Disney movie more than any others, as far as I can remember. We all know the original “Frog Prince” plot is way too short to be made into a full-length feature, unless it follows the path of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (and even this feature had many original touches), but that’s beside the point. I merely admire the creative thought put into creating the plot for this movie, not to mention making it so enjoyable for a large number of people.
    I do have to agree that on some points, the movie may be a bit too much for certain ages, one point being magic and voodoo. After the movie, my friends even confessed that their parents probably wouldn’t have let them see the movie when they were younger due to the voodoo factor, and I respect that parents reserve this right at their own discretion. I remember thinking during the villain’s song that his “friends on the other side” were colorfully cool but still creepy enough to seem evil. After reading various reviews and comments, I can see why this point may disturb some younger viewers (I admit, I cringed when in “The Little Mermaid,” Ariel entered Ursula’s chamber and was grabbed by the transformed merpeople). Two points of the movie really hit my 18-year-old heart, though. The first was when the villain mortally injured Ray the firefly. I gasped and thought to myself he would live, because Disney can’t possibly kill off such a lovable character… but lo and behold… (After the movie, a child sitting behind us was crying, apparently about this death.) The second point was the villain’s end as he was dragged into the voodoo mask’s mouth. I try to be a merciful person, so it horrified me when the voodoo spirits mercilessly dragged the begging witch doctor to his doom. There may be other “inappropriate” points in the film, but these are the only ones I can recall at the moment.
    Additionally, I read that there was some concern about race in this film. Whatever the reasons for these concerns, I personally did not see a problem with this issue. All I saw was Disney adding another princess to its royal heritage. In my own opinion, I only think this was an issue because of the oppressing African-American history (I’m only guessing, and I apologize if my word choice makes my point unclear). It seems to me that of all the races in America, African-Americans have had the hardest history, and the racism against this group is still only dwindling. Yes, other races have been oppressed (Trail of Tears, Yellow Invasion, etc.), but I reiterate, this is my own opinion (I myself am Filipino-American and have experienced racism). I rejoice along with the many others hailing the first African-American Disney princess, who will be an especially significant icon to African-American girls. I can identify with these young girls as well. When I was a toddler, I fell in love with Jasmine from “Aladdin” (“Daddy, she has long black hair and brown eyes like me!”). When Pocahontas graced the scene, I revered her presence (“Mommy, she and I have the same skin color!”). When Mulan saved China, she became my hero (“Mulan’s Asian! I’m Asian too!”). These non-Caucasian Disney princesses who were almost like me became so important to me, I can’t imagine how important Tiana is to African-American girls.
    Overall, I applaud Disney for its return to Broadway-style, fairy tale musicals (wishing on that star for more to come *smile/wink*). Some may feel that certain elements are inappropriate, which is very understandable. With great music, great characters, and a wonderful plot, I know this movie will endure!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I love this comment, JayBee! You are very thoughtful and perceptive and you write very well. Please come back here often to let us know what you think about the movies you see. Happy new year to you and your family.

  • Joanie

    Hi Nell! Haven’t commented in awhile, but always check w/you prior to seeing a movie even though the kids are all teens now! My 16 year old daughter is a huge Disney Princess fan and had seen this w/a friend when it first came out. She has been pressuring me and her brothers to see it. I really didn’t care to, but her brothers finally caved. So we went today and I was the ONLY mom in the audience with 3 TEENS. (At least I didn’t have to go w/them to the bathroom like the other parents did – lol). Anyway, I’m glad she pushed it, because the animation and story were lovely and I even got teary eyed at the “star” part at the end. But my actual favorite part was listening to the little kids all burst out laughing at several parts. We were laughing because they were. I love movies that can appeal to all ages and not have inappropriate parts. This was a perfect Disney Princess movie, and like the more modern Princesses (like Belle, my daughter’s favorite) – Tiana is her own woman. Glad I went, although I’m sure my daughter, Skye, will be “I told you so”-ing for the next day or so. Haha. Highly recommend! (Just want to add, I live in AZ and there are alot of snowbirds here right now, so there was also a good chunk of seniors sans kids in the theatre that evidently just wanted to see a good clean Disney film. That was pretty kewl.)

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks for a great comment, Joanie! I loved the movie and I am so glad you and your daughter enjoyed it.

  • shawna

    While I do agree that the animation was great, the strong female role model was refreshing and the music was fantastic, I have to wonder… have we all become completely desensitized???
    Since when is Voodoo and Black Magic appropriate viewing material for youngster?
    I was so grossly disappointed in Disney that they would take this story line, and even more so in our society that no one has spoken up! I suppose if you really wanted to educate your children on the dangers of witch craft, this might be an appropriate learning tool.
    This movie is NOT for children-period!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Shawna! As I noted in my review, the voodoo images may be scary and disturbing for young children. But for me, it was handled well. The magic component was similar to that of “Sleeping Beauty” or “The Little Mermaid” but less scary because the good witch counseled the heroes to solve their own problems and not to rely on magic. As in all fairy tales, magic is a metaphor that helps children sort through their feelings about power and transformation, which is why these stories are so enduring.

  • Kyla

    Great review! The Princess and the frog is definately a great all ages film. while,again, I loved your review I dont quite agree with your minimum age suggestion. I agree with you that the voodoo was a bit inappropriate for youngsters,but I felt very secure in bringing my six year old to the film, and she didnt have any problem with it (except for a candy-induced stomagh ache, but thats a different story)
    and Shawna- I agree with you that Disney should have chosen a more child-appropriate “bad side” and left out the voodoo, I dont believe dark themes in children’s movies are anything new. Take a look at Sleeping Beauty. At one point the witch announces she is unleashing “all the powers of Hell”

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