Walt Disney Animation Studios unfurls the brand banner with a wholesome hand-drawn animated musical about Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a New Orleans waitress who kisses a glib frog claiming to be Prince Naveen of Moldania (Bruno Campos). What’s in it for her? Financing for the eatery she’s scraped and saved to open, to fulfill her late daddy’s dream. Surprise! Tiana turns into a frog too, thanks to the communicable spell by the nefarious Dr. Facilier (Keith David) that originally turned the handsome charming Prince into a frog. Out of their element, this bickering couple hop across the swamp in search of the blind 197-year-old Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) who can make things right with her nice magic. Along the way they pick up sidekick critters: a trumpet-tooting gator and a bewhiskered Cajun firefly. The frogs fall in love, and when they kiss at the altar deep in bayou, guess what? Co-directors and co-writers Ron Clements and Chicago-born Northwestern grad John Musker (“Treasure Planet,” “Hercules,” “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid”) create a quality kids adventure that celebrates family enterprise besides fairytale romance. This enjoyable tale earns its G-rating by limiting its oaths to “cheese n’ crackers!” Yucky yuks about bodily fluids are limited to lines about an amphibian secretion dissed as “slime,” although “mucuous” is the preferred term (rather like “sweat” versus the more polite “perspiration.”) Message on the side: the pampered and the privileged can overcome their upbringing and become better people. That’s just one of the nods here to Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night.” With the voices of Jennifer Cody, John Goodman, Jim Cummings, Michael-Leon Wooley, Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey. 95m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.