I wasn't going to bother going to see the new Disney cartoon, "The Princess on the Frog," first because Disney's campaign to turn princesses into pure little-girl-crack is tiresome-verging-on-offensive, and second because it looked like a trite and opportunistic way to bring in African-American viewers.
But Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams has me convinced. This sounds like a damned good movie. Maybe I'll take the kid to see it.
Tiana takes the princess role a step further — she's not just Disney's first African-American to wear the crown, she's the first one with a regular job. (Unless you count Mulan's gig as a warrior.) She also, like "Ratatouille's" Remy, makes the case for great food as a social leveler and the cornerstone of a good life. Tiana knows that food "brings people together" with more reliable results than even voodoo.
But the strides here aren't just for princesses. Those Charming Guys of bygone days have traditionally been even less interesting than the ladies they rescue. Campos makes his Naveen such a cocky player that he doesn't stop seducing even when he's turned green and asks for just one kiss … "unless you beg for more." He's a spoiled rich guy who needs to grow up, and the movie is just as much about his journey as it is about Tiana's.
And what a felicitous spot to take that journey. The Crescent City, in all her late 19th-century glory, shines like a jewel here: an enchanted, lively, multicultural town full of bright blossoms and infectious songs. As they say in the movie, "Dreams come true in New Orleans." Randy Newman [ed: ugh], who wrote the score, does a bang-up job of paying tribute to the city's rich musical heritage in a series of colorful, trippy numbers. There's a jazzy Armstrong-like song (featuring a crocodile named Louis), a gospel-tinged showstopper, a zydeco throwdown, and a boogie-woogie paean to the town sung by Dr. John [ed: that's more like it].