Princess and the Frog (2009)

Rated: G (Unbelievably!)
Length: 97 minutes
Grade: FDDF=F
Budget: $105 million
Box Office: $266 million (104 U.S., 162 Intl.)

Written and Directed by: Ron Clements & John Musker (Treasure Planet,Hercules, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Great Mouse Detective, and Black Cauldron)
Starring the voices of: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, and Keith David
With the voices of: Terrence Howard, John Goodman, and Oprah Winfrey

After a disinherited prince and his valet are tricked by a voodoo charlatan into serving the forces of evil, the valet becomes the prince and the prince becomes a frog. He must get a princess to kiss him to be freed, but instead when Tiana an aspiring restauranteur does so, she becomes a frog, too. They have adventures in the bayou and try to get back to New Orleans to make everything right.

Entertainment Value: F
I am apparently the only person in America who thinks this, but I hated this movie in its entirety. The animation was terrible, almost disturbing to me in the way it portrayed people, despite obviously being all hand-drawn. I was horrified at the saturation with voodoo and scary underworld stuff for kids. And the plot was insane when it wasn’t boring. I actually fell asleep for about twenty minutes in the middle, which seemed like a good alternative to having to watch it. I know a lot of black people have been thrilled to finally have a Disney movie primarily with black characters, and I am, too. I only wish they had chosen a movie worth making to do it with.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity C, Violence C, Language A
So how can I give this movie a D rating when none of the categories are worse than a C? Simple. This is a movie for kids, and the whole thing is dripping with demonic images and themes. I know Disney has a history of getting criticism from conservative Christians for its magic/witchcraft and single-parent depictions, but this is well beyond anything I’ve seen before from them. Think Ursula from The Little Mermaid combined with the Queen of Snow White and Jafar from Aladdin, only make it worse than any of them by having him serve evil spirits and perform voodoo spells with blood and Tarot cards. On top of this, there’s a “good voodoo witch” Mama Odie. It’s got plenty of Mardi Gras type partying, sensual undertones and playboy sentiments for the prince and his various female companions. Seriously, we watched this on our own for no particular reason, assuming we could let the kids watch it on their own later. Wow, am I glad we didn’t star this with them! My wife and I kept looking at each other in horrified disbelief that Disney would make this movie AND the MPAA would give it a G rating. The very first thing she did when it finished was email her mom friends to warn them about the content of this movie. I would rate this PG-13 at least, just for the occult content, but I can’t imagine any kids old enough to watch it safely actually wanting to do so.

Significant Content: D
I have to start with the good stuff. I think some people who have already decided to love this movie and want a way to discount what I’ve been saying so far will point out that black magic ends badly for the bad guy (but not for Mama Odie, notice). In addition, although greed and lust and sensuality are all big themes here, they’re all depicted as flaws which true love can push away. Money, for instance, is sought by Dr. Facilier because once he owns the city, he will have access to the souls of the people. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of idolatry, but the solution isn’t through the power of Christ. Rather, after all the voodoo and the deception, you wind up getting the final lesson of the movie: work hard and dig a little deeper into yourself to get what you want.

Artistic/Thought Value: F
Again, the art was horrific to me, and because the movie is so grotesque, I just don’t find much here worth thinking about. Also, this movie seemed so full of black stereotypes that I couldn’t help wondering whether it was usefully appealing to black audiences or just plain racist.

Discussion Questions:
~What is the difference between having disturbing content in a children’s movie and a teenager’s movie and an adult movie? Why might things be acceptable (for a purpose) in a movie for adults but not in a movie for kids?
~Dr. Facilier ultimately is torn apart by the very demons he has made his bargain with. Does this mean the movie is teaching the dangers of playing with black magic? Do you think someone would be more or less interested in voodoo as a result of watching this movie?
~Tiana keeps saying that the key to success is hard work? Is it? What might a Christian say?
~Once she finds true love, Tiana seems willing to give up all her other hopes and dreams to be with her man. Has she been delivered from the idolatry of her restaurant, or has she just replaced one idol with another?
~Was this movie honoring to black people and black culture or was it racist in perpetuating black stereotypes?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Dr. Facilier dealing the Tarot cards and making the demonic bargain.
~Dr. Facilier being dragged down to hell.
~Ray going to be with Eudora.
Overall Grade: F
No, no, no, no. Absolutely not for kids. A tragically bad movie that is the first Disney film to feature a black heroine and a primarily black cast. However, do keep in mind that my wife and I are apparently the only people in America who think this. Rotten Tomatoes rates it an overwhelming 85% fresh. Go figure!

No comments: