“At The Movies” 12.11.09
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening today at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
            Ah, it’s wonderful to see the old Disney magic again.  “The Princess And The Frog” is a fantastic animated production with a little something for everybody.  It’s extraordinarily well-crafted, from the writing to the production to the casting to the screenplay.  This one is destined to become an instant classic.
            It’s the story of Tiana (marvelously played by Anika Noni Rose), a little girl who grows up in a warm, loving, family in New Orleans, somewhere around 1914 (on the streetcar, a man is holding a paper that says “Wilson elected”).  Her best friend is Charlotte (the voice of Jennifer Cody), a rich little white girl who’s treated like a princess and dreams of marrying a prince.  Tiana, for her part, loves to cook, and dreams of someday owning a fancy restaurant.  Alas, as a young adult, the dreams persist, but reality sets in:  Tiana is a waitress in a diner, and her father is a picture of a soldier in a Doughboy (World War I) uniform.  Her mother, Eudora (an unknown named Oprah Winfrey), is still a loving, encouraging, presence, and Tiana scrimps and saves her pennies, still hoping to buy that ramshackle old building down the street and covert it to her grandiloquent restaurant.  In the meantime, a prince does indeed arrive on the scene.  His name is Naveen (Bruno Campos), but he is penniless, and somewhat of a wastrel.  He delves into the rich Cajun musical scene, eventually making a deal with the devil, here represented as Dr. Facilier (Keith David)---a sly, cunning, deceitful street magician who has made his own deal with the dark voodoo powers.  (Disney returns to the time-tested storytelling device of the presence of evil haunting and hunting the heroines, and thwarting their good intentions.)  Tiana and Naveen suddenly find themselves turned into frogs, running for their lives in the swampy bayou, but there they meet some delightful characters, including Louis the trumpet-playing Gator (Michael-Leon Wooley) and Ray the lovesick firefly (Jim Cummings), who longs to be with his Evangeline, but shhh, don’t tell him that she’s just a wishing star.
            Somehow this fairy tale captures the spirit of the exuberant, jazzy, soulful, Cajun-esque New Orleans of a pre-Katrina, more sparkling era.  The whole ensemble crackles with energy, and Randy Newman’s music just soars.  Yes, the creepy moments might be a bit intense for the wee ones, but the adults will be pleasantly surprised by how winsome this enchanting animation can be.  Go see it, and take the whole family.  You’ll be glad you did.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93.5-KICK-FM.