Category Archives: Family

Field of Dreams (1989)

If you build it, he will come.

— The Voice

This is the last movie that I saw before my burnout happened over two months, the guy tear-jerker Field of Dreams. There is an unwritten rule that if you are a man and you don’t cry at the end of, you have no soul. That is true. Every boy wants to have one game of catch with their fathers once in their lifetime. Based on the novel, “Shoeless Joe”, it was nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score.

A farmer from Iowa named Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is walking through his field when he hears a disembodied saying, “If you built it, he will come.” He hears the same phrase repeatedly, but he is the only one that hears it. He confesses to his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) about the phrase that he keeps on hearing. She thinks that maybe it was God talking to him or maybe he is going off the deep end.

Ray randomly questions the townspeople about the meaning of the phrase until he realizes that he has to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. He thinks that this action would bring a childhood hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, back so he could play one last game. Ray thinks that he is turning into his father (Dwier Brown), a man who played it safe during his life and never took chances.

Ray decided to plow him field, much to the chagrin of the people in the town who think that Ray is bonkers  and would lose his farm. He spends his life savings building the diamond, waiting for something to happen. Months go by with no response until there is a man walking in the diamond. It is Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta). They play a mini game of baseball. When they are done playing, Ray and Joe realize that Joe cannot step foot outside of the diamond. Joe disappears into the cornfield.

Ray’s brother, Mark (Timothy Busfield) thinks that Ray is crazy to think that he could afford the farm when he wiped out most of his crop. The bank is threatening to take away the home. The NY Yankees team from the 1919 World Series come to play ball in the field. Ray, Annie and their daughter, Karin (Gaby Hoffmann) can see them, but Mark cannot.

Ray has enough to deal with when the voice tells him to “ease his pain”. He thought he meant the radical novelist turned social recluse, Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones). He tries to kidnap him to take him to a ball game where he didn’t have the opportunity to do when his father.

I might have remembered the movie differently, because I didn’t get the same feeling with movie like I did when I was younger. I bawled at the end of the movie, but I had a heartwarming feeling by this last viewing. Hmm… I guess, the magic of the film is gone.

Judgment: It’s still a fun ride, but its lost its luster.

Rating: 7/10

The Princess Bride (1987)

As you wish.

— Westley

The #186  Movie of All-Time on IMDb, The Princess Bride was a movie that I wanted to see for a long time, but I never got the chance to do it. I thought it was would a chick flick that would remind me a trashy romance novel. It turns out to not be the case. The movie was nominated for Oscar for Best Original Song for the Willy DeVille’s song, “Storybook Love”.

A boy (Fred Savage) that is sick in his room is visited by his grandfather (Peter Falk) with a book in his hands to cheer him up. The book happens to The Princess Bride. The grandson thinks that the book would be too girly for him with the romance aspect to it. The grandfather wanted him to give the book a chance.

As the grandfather reads the opening lines of the book, the audience is transported into book where we learn about the burgeoning romance between peasant girl curiously named Buttercup (Robin Wright) and the farm boy, Westley (Cary Elwes). Things quickly turn tragic when Westley leaves to go abroad and is killed by a pirate. Heartbroken, Buttercup mourns for her lost love.

Years later, Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) has chosen a girl to be his bride. It happens to be Buttercup. The trouble is that she does not love him. She is still in love with Westley. With her upcoming nuptials, she takes a stroll through the forest and is captured by a trio of bandits. The mastermind of the group, Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) wants to hold the princess bride to start a war between rival kingdoms.

Ensuring that the princess does not escape, Vizzini has the ogre, Fezzik (André the Giant) keeps a close eye on her and have Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) fight any intruders that will foil their plans. It seems that the trio are being followed by a mysterious man in black to the Cliffs of Insanity.

This is not your typical costume romance type movie. The romance between Westley and Buttercup was nice to see. I loved that his phrase, “as you wish” was a clever way of saying, “I love you” to her. Patinkin as Montoya was hilarious to watch him to try to get revenge of the Six Finger Man that killed his father and him uttering that manta of his.

Judgment: The movie was silly, harmless fun.

Rating: ***1/2

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

You just gestured to all of me.

— Hiccup

Currently the #175th movie of All Time on IMDb, How to Train Your Dragon has been on the hearts and minds of the people that have seen it a couple of months ago. I was not interested in seeing the movie, because of the crappy trailer for it. People were gushing over this movie saying that it was the best thing that’s happened in that dead part at the beginning of the year. I’m glad that I saw this movie. It’s not most original storyline ever, but I enjoyed the ride on Toothless’s back.

A scrawny Viking boy unfortunately named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is trying to be a typical Viking that kills dragons that have been terrorizing their village for centuries like his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler). Life dealt him a bad hand that he is a bumbling kid that could only make little contraptions in the back of Gobber’s (Craig Ferguson) blacksmith shop where he works as an apprentice.

During one dragon fight, Hiccup wants to help his fellow Vikings out by using one of his inventions; a bolas-shooting cannon that could take down the elusive Night Fury dragon. Hiccup sees a figure out in the distance and fires his cannon. He believes that he caught something that fell in the middle of forest outside of the village.

Stoick is tired of fighting the dragons for their basic way of life. He decides to go out in search of the dragon’s nest to have one final decisive battle. While he is away, asks Gobber to stay behind to teach the new generation of dragon killers, including Hiccup.

At the mean time, Hiccup tries to search for the dragon he might have captured in the forest. He does find it, which turns out to be the Night Fury of legend. He has the perfect opportunity to slay the beast. But looking into the eyes of this creature could not allow him to strike to the fatal blow. Hiccup decides to release the dragon instead, who tries to fly away, but is injured enough to not take flight.

Hiccup wants to help out the dragon he named Toothless while he is in the middle of his dragon slaying classes with the know-it-all Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the fragile  Snotlout (Jonah Hill), the warring fraternal twin Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and Hiccup’s crush, Astrid (America Ferrera). Hiccup struggles being a “dragon whisperer” and being a dragon killer that his father wants him to become.

The praise was well-deserved to a certain extent. I’m not gonna be Armond White or anything, but the story has been done countless times with the protagonist has to choose between duty and an unconventional friendship. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but I liked the movie tried to interpret the author, Cressida Cowell’s words into something slightly unique. The one thing I thought was too convenient is something traumatic happens to Hiccup that made him relate to Toothless more kinda turned me off.

Judgment: Damn it. I wish I saw this movie in 3D. It would have been epic.

Rating: ****

Toy Story 3 (2010)

So long… partner.

— Woody

Currently the #6 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Toy Story 3 is the inevitable conclusion of the series Pixar created over fifteen years ago. It finally goes full circle as we get to know how these characters that we grew up with will do once they are not needed anymore. This latest offering redeems everything bad that I have said about Pixar as of long, a coherent story with memorable characters that is not trying to be overly ambitious.

After years of being holed up in the toy box, the toys try to find ways of getting Andy’s (John Morris) attention. Now that he is seventeen, the dreaded time has come when Andy is going to give them up. He leaves for college in a couple of days. He has to decide whether who will come with him, go to the attic, donate or be thrown away. Half of the toys has already been given away over the years except for Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Hamm, (John Ratzenberger), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Bull’s-Eye, Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles, Estelle Harris) and Molly’s Barbie (Jodi Benson).

While Andy decided to bring Woody to college with him and leave the other toys for the attic. Andy carelessly put the others in a garbage bag which makes Andy’s mom (Laurie Metcalf) think that they are garbage. Woody tries to save them before getting tossed into the garbage where the break out to go to the donate box.

Andy’s mom drops the toys off at a daycare center called Sunny Side. When the toys first get there, they thought it was a fantastical place where they would be played with everyday. This was the Butterfly Room with the pre-schoolers. After the pre-schoolers leave the leader of the Butterfly Room, Lotso the Bear (Ned Beatty) welcomes the newcomers with the help of Ken (Michael Keaton) as a tour guide.

Lotso and Ken show Andy toys around the place and lead them into the Caterpillar Room which is for the toddlers that are not as gentle with the toys like the Butterfly Room. Woody wants the gang to stay together with Andy or in the attic. The others want to stay at the daycare center. Woody wants to stay with Andy. Woody leaves and is picked up by a little girl named Bonnie (Emily Hahn). At Bonnie’s house, Woody hears that the other toys are in trouble and Woody has to decide whether to go back to Andy’s house or save the toys.

This movie explained better the themes that were introduced in the second movies with the inevitably of every toy that they will not be needed anymore. Their owners grow up. They have different priorities and playing with a toy is not one of them. If my toys could talk, they would have the same conversation the toys had in this movie. This movie ultimately shows up that when somebody grows up. No matter how big they are. There will always be an inner child poking out of them.

The ending of the movie was heartbreaking, heart affirming, poignant and brilliant. Being leery of this installment, I would say that this is a perfect ending for this series.

Judgment: Bravo and thank you, Pixar.

Rating: ****1/2

The Wiz (1978)

Girl, do you know that you’re 24 years old, and you’ve never been south of 125th Street? Well, you haven’t!

— Aunt Em

I have only seen bits and pieces of African-American interpretation of the classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz simply called The Wiz. I know some of the famous songs in the films like “If You Believe”, “No Bad News” and “Ease on Down the Road”. I don’t remember anything else. I was surprised that Sidney Lumet directed this movie when I looked up his credits on IMDb. This film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 1979, but it came away empty handed. I can understand why.

This version of story taken place in Harlem where the introverted Dorothy (Diana Ross) is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher living with his Aunt Em (Theresa Merritt) and Uncle Henry (Stanley Greene). During a Thanksgiving celebration, Aunt Em tries to persuade Dorothy to accept a high school teaching position. Dorothy is reluctant to move on with her life. She is comfortable staying in Harlem at the same apartment.

When she tries to take out the garbage, her dog Toto runs out of the apartment into the massive snowstorm. When she recovers him, a funnel cloud whisks her into Munchkin Land where people come alive from the graffiti on the walls. When Dorothy and Toto crash into the land from the Oz ceiling, she kills the Wicked Witch of the East, Evermean. She frees the munchkins from the evil reign of Evermean, who inherits her silver high heel shoes from the Good Witch of the North, Miss One (Thelma Carpenter). Dorothy desperately wants to go home. Miss One tells Dorothy to fellow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to find the Wiz (Richard Pryor) who is the only person that could send her back home.

Dorothy is left wandering around Oz that resembles New York City until she meets the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) the next day. He is surrounded by the Four Crows (Derrick Bell, Roderick-Spencer Sibert, Kashka Banjoko, Ronald ‘Smokey’ Stevens) that refuses to let him down to watch around his garden. Dorothy intervenes and frees him. She wants to bring Scarecrow along who wants to find a brain from the Wiz.

They find the yellow brick road and find the Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) who was trapped under fallen props at an amusement park and the Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) at a local library front. They tag along for Tin Man to find a heart and the Lion to find courage. In order to go to the Wiz, they have to kill the Wicked Witch of West, Evillene (Mabel King).

I have no words to say about this movie. I was happy watching the bits and pieces that I have seen. This movie is over two hours long. It felt like six hours. I am not exaggerating. The sequences go on repeatedly for far too long. I cannot believe that this movie was nominated for any Oscars, except for the music. I thought the music was the only saving grace in this steaming pile of a film.

Judgment: Buy the soundtrack instead. Save yourself the torture to your eyes.

Rating: *1/2

Toy Story (1995)

What chance does a toy like me have against a Buzz Lightyear action figure?

— Woody

In my opinion, Pixar’s latest movies have left me high and dry with brilliant concepts that are poorly executed. I thought that I might revisit the film that put the company on the map; the first feature-length computer animated movie, Toy Story. Never gone out to the see this and the sequel in 3D a couple of months ago, I wanted to see how they started. This movie was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1995 and it is the #159 movie of All Time on IMDb. This movie continues to hit home with the message of friendship, even though they are toys.

During a birthday party for Andy (John Morris), the other toys like Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Little Bo Peep (Annie Potts) in his room wanted to know if there is anything new coming into the house, particularly the alpha toy, Woody (Tom Hanks) that is worried of getting replaced.

A team of plastic green army men headed by the Sergeant (R. Lee Ermey) goes with a baby monitor to scope out the gift that Andy has gotten. Everything seems to be fine, when there is a surprise present by Andy’s mother (Laurie Metcalf). It turns out to be Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) who thinks that it is actually a space ranger on a space mission instead of a mass produced product.

Andy and the other toys really like Buzz. Woody feels left out of being the favorite toy of Andy’s. Woody becomes more jealous during the next couple of days before the family moves into another house.

Hearing noises outside of Andy’s window, the other toys tell Buzz about the kid next door, Sid (Erik von Detten), has an infamous reputation for blowing up toys. Two days before the family leaves, Woody overhears the mother tell Andy to bring one toy on their final dinner together to Pizza Planet. He finds it the opportunity to get rid of Buzz by forcing him out of the house. He does, but the other toys think that he murder Buzz. The toys plan to execute him.

Woody tries to find a way to get Buzz back and get back in the good grace of the other toys.

I thought I remember this movie. Watching it again, I believed I saw bits and pieces of it instead of the entire thing. I could not believe that this movie is fifteen years old. The most of the animation still holds up after fifteen years. There is still blockiness with the Scud, Sid’s dog and Sid’s brace face, but I let that slide because the movie was innovative at the time.

Judgment: It’s a good movie to revisit before Toy Story 3 comes out.

Rating: ****1/2

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Have you any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?

— The Mad Hatter

It’s been awhile seen I reviewed a movie, but it’s nice to get back to the swing of things with Tim Burton’s take of Alice in Wonderland. There had been many iterations of this movie for almost a hundred years. Now, modern audiences have a 3D extravaganza that is tearing up the box office. I did not see this movie in 3D. It was a good thing I did, because this movie would more unbearable to watch.

This movie is a continuation of the original story by Lewis Carroll; Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now nineteen-years-old. She has strange dreams from her time in Wonderland, but her father Charles Kingsleigh (Marton Csokas) dismissed them as such until the day he died. He left Alice and his wife, Helen (Lindsay Duncan) virtually penniless.

The two arrive at the house of Lord and Lady Ascot (Tim Pigott-Smith, Geraldine James) for what it seems like a social gathering. It turns that their son, Hamish (Leo Bill) is going to ask Alice to marry him. Alice thinks that she cannot possibly marry a man that she doesn’t love. Throughout the day, she thought that she saw a rabbit with a top coat. She decides to follow it instead and fall into the seemingly endless rabbit hole.

Alice believes that she is dreaming the whole time that she is in Wonderland. There are voices asking if this was the same Alice that came thirteen years ago. Looking around this seemingly unfamiliar place, Alice meets up with the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Tweedledee, Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), Dormouse (Barbara Windsor) and other strange creatures of Wonderland, who are trying to figure out if they found the right Alice.

They take her to the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) that is smoking a hookah is trying to test her to see that she is the same Alice as before. If she was, she needs to find the inner strength she had when she was six to fulfill a prophecy for a chose warrior to help defeat Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee), a dragon that belongs to The Red Queen (Helena Bonham-Carter) who usurped his sister, The White Queen’s (Anne Hathaway) kingdom shortly after Alice left.

The Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) and the Red Army try to capture the group with a white monster called a Bandersnatch, but Dormouse plucked out one of its eyeballs to allow Alice to escape deeper into the woods. The Knave of Hearts retrieved the scroll and brings it back with the Tweedles back to the Red Queen. He tells her about the prophecy. The Red Queen wants to find Alice before the prophecy can be fulfilled.

Wondering through the forest alone, Alice meets the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) that convinces her to follow the sly cat to the place with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is at with the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) having another tea party. The Mad Hatter is delighted to see Alice and is also there to protect her when the Knave of Hearts tries to find her again. He is captured and taken to the Red Queen’s castle. Now, Alice has to find a way to break her friends free and defeat the Jabberwocky.

I don’t know what is up with Tim Burton remaking, re-imagining, reinterpreting classic children’s books or movies, but he needs to stop it. Just because you put your own Tim Burtonesque spin on it doesn’t make it good. It was boring. I didn’t care for Alice who was stoic the whole movie. The Red Queen screaming “Off with his/her/their head(s)!” every five minutes. The White Queen acted like she was high off ecstasy. The Mad Hatter was supposed to be a mood ring, but he was blue in my eyes. Neutral. Nothing. The Tweedles were just there. The only characters I liked where the Cheshire Cat and the Blue Caterpillar. What the fuck is with that ending?

Judgment: I didn’t care for this movie at all. Watch the animated classic film instead.

Rating: **

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

First rule of battle strategy. Don’t ever let your opponent distract you.

— Annabeth Chase

I was mildly interested in the movie, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, because it an obvious Harry Potter ripoff that was based on the book series by Rick Riordan. On the /Filmcast, one of the hosts railed on how bad the movie was, so I had to check out how awful the movie is. The movie is not horrendous, but it’s not that great.

Mixing ancient Greek mythology into modern times, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) is summoned to Olympus, which is situated on top of the Empire State Building to his brother, Zeus (Sean Bean). Zeus is angry that his lightning bolt has been stolen from him. Somehow, he only blames the offspring of Poseidon for the theft. Zeus warns Poseidon that if the bolt is not returned to him within two weeks before the summer solstice then a full scale war will ensue.

Poseidon’s offspring turns out to be a troubled teenager named Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) suffering from ADHD and dyslexia. He is living a shabby apartment with her mother, Sally (Catherine Keener) and dickhead stepfather, Gabe Ugliano (Joe Pantoliano). He dreams that his life was be better than it is.

On a field trip to look at the exhibit of Greek and Roman art, he attacked by his substitute teacher, Mrs. Dodds (Maria Olson) who turned out to be a butt ugly fury who seeks the lightning bolt from Percy. A wheelchair bound curator, Mr. Brewer (Pierce Brosnan) and Percy’s best friend, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) think that Percy is in danger. He has to leave town with Grover being his protector with a pen that was given to him that turns out to be a sword. Huh?

On the drive to Camp Half Blood, his mother explains to Percy about his birth father and why he wasn’t in his life. The car they are in is attacked by a Minotaur. It turns out that Grover is a satyr, a half-person/half-goat creature that is the protector of Percy. During the fight, the Minotaur kidnaps his mother. Percy passes out. Three days later, he wakes in the infirmary with Grover telling him about his father, Poseidon, him being a demigod, and that he has to train for battle.

Mr. Brewer turns out to be a Centaur, Chiron, whose sworn duty to train the heroes for anything that the Gods could throw at them. While Percy is getting situated, the whole camp is involved in a spirited game of “capture the flag”, where he gets into battle with Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), who is the daughter of Athena. He is wounded. He regenerates from the water by the voice of his father in his head.

At a bonfire, Hades (Steve Coogan) appears in his menacing transformation to tell Percy that his mother is in the underworld with him. If he ever sees the mother, he has to return the bolt. Percy wants to go to Olympus to tell Zeus the truth, but Chiron thinks that is not a good idea. Outside the protective shield of the camp, he is vulnerable.

Not heeding his warning, Percy, Grover and Annabeth decide to try to find a way to get to Underworld to get his mother back. To do that, they need to find three pearls to open the portal to Hell told by the son of Hermes, Luke (Jake Abel).  They have to go on a cross country journey to vaguely Grecian places to find them.

I don’t have the same hate for Chris Columbus and his films like everyone else. I think that Chris take a source and translate it to the screen without any imagination or pizzazz behind it. That is why this movie is laughable at times and not in a good way. Is this movie serious? Sometime I can’t tell if it was supposed to be campy or been taken seriously. That bit with the iPhone? The satyr dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”? You have fantastic cast of good actors, but it feels like a B movie you find on the Syfy Channel. An utter disappointment.

Judgment: I would suggest waiting for the Clash of the Titans movie. Don’t watch this.

Rating: **

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Wes Anderson’s foray into animation culminated with the Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the classic book by Roald Dahl. I was hesitant watching this movie from the trailer for it. I was iffy on the animation. This movie came out around Thanksgiving. By Christmas, it was out of theaters. I found the movie at the cheap theater right near me.

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a seasoned thief when it comes to swiping squabs, but in one particular caper, his wife (Meryl Streep) accompanies him to steal chickens for dinner. They are snared in a fox trap and Mrs. Fox announces that she’s pregnant. She wants him to promise if they make it out alive that he would have another profession.

Two years later, he does get out of the profession. He settles down, has a safe job as a columnist He tries to provide a normal life for his oddball son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman). Mr. Fox feels poor that he is living in a hole. He wants to live above ground in the fresh air. Fox’s real estate attorney, Badger (Bill Murray) advices Mr. Fox not to move the family to the new tree, because they cannot afford the tree on his salary.

Ignoring Badger’s advice Mr. Fox moves the family to the glorious tree that overlooks a trio of compounds out in the distance. A family cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) visits the family after his father has fallen ill with double pneumonia. The lanky fox that does yoga and has a certain lilt to his voice threaten Ash.

When Kristofferson settles in, Mr. Fox is getting that itch to pull off one last job. He enlists the help of his possum super, Kiley (Wally Wolodarsky) to be his associate as they try to implement “Mr. Fox’s Master Plan”.

His three phase plans goes as follows: Phase one: infiltrate Boggis’ (Robin Hurlstone) Chicken House, drug the beagles guarding the property with blueberries laced with sleeping powder, make out with the chicken bounty. Phase two: Bunce’s (Hugo Guinness) Refrigerated Smokehouse, repeat process of phase one.

After their heist, the Fox’s pantry is filled with meat. Mrs. Fox is becoming more suspicious about her husband’s nightly duties. When phrase three in put in place: gaining access to Bean’s Secret Cider Cellar. Kristofferson come along to act as that small Asian guy in Ocean’s Eleven. (The parallels between those movies were not lost on me). There is snag in Fox’s Master Plan when the trio meet a Rat (Willem Dafoe) that has watched West Side Story one too many times, guarding the of bottles. They get into a fight and are almost caught be Bean (Michael Gambon) himself getting into his infinite stash of alcoholic cider.

As the trio outsmarted Rat and get away, the three owners have an emergency meeting about Mr. Fox robbing their stocks. They want to kill him. When they fail to do so, they decided to dig them out. Fearing for their lives, the animals decided to dig deeper into the ground. The farmers want to kill the Fox by any means necessary. This threatens the other inhabitants of the land to band together for one common goal to stop the farmers before they destroy all of their homes.

In my opinion, the crude 70s stop motion capture threw me off a little bit. These lanky stick figure miniatures were distracting. The beginning of the movie got off to a rocky start where the characters were overtly quirky to be quirky. When the whole community bands together, that is when the movie was getting real good and I forgot everything about the weird brisk walking, pooling tears in the eyes for a moment. I had a good time with this movie.

Judgment: This movie might not work for kids, but is perfect for adults.

Rating: ****

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

I was cursed by a dastardly witch doctor. One minute I’m a prince, charming and handsome, cutting the rug, and the next minute – woah!

— Prince Naveen

The Disney Company has gone back to their hand-drawn animation roots with the release of The Princess and the Frog. Deviating from the classic tale, “The Frog Prince”, the movie is set in 1930s New Orleans. This is billed as Disney’s first movie with an African American princess as the lead. The problem is that it’s not… really.

A young woman named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) works double shifts as a waitress to save enough money to open her own restaurant. It has been a life long dream for hers and her father, James (Terrence Howard) that died years earlier. Her aging mother, Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) wants Tiana to focus on finding a man that could provide her with the life that she always dreamed.

As fate would have it, Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruce Campos) visits New Orleans to find a bride quickly. He has been cut off from his wealth, because of her womanizing, philandering ways. Accompanying the inconspicuous Prince Naveen on his journey is his manservant, Lawrence (Peter Bartlett).

When the duo steps off the ship, “The Shadow Man” Dr. Facilier (Keith David), a voodoo doctor that pretends to be a tarot reader, confronts them. He wants to isolate them to grant their greatest wishes, for Naveen it is wealth and fortune that he was stripped and for Lawrence it is a privileged life like Naveen’s. They both decide to have a deal with The Shadow Man where Naveen is turned into a frog.

Tiana’s friend from childhood, Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) commissions her to provide 500 beignets for her masquerade ball that night. With the money from her dad, “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman), Tiana has enough money to make a payment on a broken down warehouse. The problem is that another bidder made a bid on that property, and she needed the money by the next day or she will lose it.

Distraught about the situation, Tiana spills food on herself. Charlotte quickly whisked Tiana into her room to change. She is dressed as a princess when she wishes on the Northern Star for a solution to her situation. Prince Naveen as the frog shows up to convince Tiana to kiss him to turn him back into a human. She is reluctant at first, but she does kiss him. There has an adverse effect; she is turned into a frog.

The whole movie is an epic journey for Naveen and Tiana to go into the grand bayou to seek out the wisdom of old, blind voodoo queen, Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis). Along the journey, a trumpeting playing alligator Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) and the broken down Cajun lightning bug Raymond (Jim Cummings) befriend Naveen and Tiana.

In the African American community, people are debating about the state of class in the movie. The privileged people in the movie were the whites and poor were the blacks. They don’t realize in that at the time, blacks people did not have the same opportunities that whites had. They had to work extra hard to catch up. Even though this is a fairy tale, it doesn’t have to be completely unrealistic in that aspect.

This was supposed to be a return to form for Disney, but I thought there was something about the climax of the movie that bothered me. I thought it was wrapped up too tightly at the end of the movie with all the characters collimating at the Mardi Gras parade at the same time. The love story between Naveen and Tiana felt a little rushed to me. I did not have room to breathe. Besides, that I thought that it was a fun time with the upbeat jazzy numbers the characters.

Judgment: A Disney movie that has a somewhat lackluster story.

Rating: ****

%d bloggers like this: