I always thought that I liked kids, but I have come to the conclusion that this is not the case. If there were no children, no one would have made The Princess and the Frog. If no one had made it, I would not have spent the afternoon watching it. If I had not spent the afternoon watching it, I would feel better about myself. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy it; some of it was very funny and I was on the verge of crying pretty much from beginning to end—and I didn’t even realize that Oprah Winfrey was in it. But that is exactly the problem.
Randy Newman shows once again that talent can be used for evil. The songs—pretty much without exception—suck. But that’s okay. Newman has been writing poor songs on and off since the beginning (think: Laughing Boy) and always since about Toy Story (think: You’ve Got a Friend in Me). It was his score that was so evil. I was emotionally bruised (and worse, but I don’t want to go into details). I should now be made to weep over a dead firefly’s romantic life.
What bothered me most about the film was how it dealt with race. It takes place in 1930s (give or take 20 years) Louisiana, with its accompanying racial segregation and economic stratification. The fact that all the black people were smiling didn’t make me accept the racist expectations of the whites any better—from the implicit racism of Big Daddy LaBouff and his annoying daughter to the explicit racism of the real estate agents. What’s more, I couldn’t get past the fact that Prince Naveen is vaguely Indian and thus brown and thus acceptable to be paired with the light-skinned black girl. Certainly the prince could not be pasty-English white and the girl be Miles Davis black; or visa versa. If this is a film for kids, then perhaps such delicate racial issues should be taken out of it, by setting it somewhere other than 1930s (give or take 75 years) Louisiana.
It seems like a minor thing, but it’s worth mentioning: the animation. This film is what they call “hand drawn”. By this, it seems what they mean is that the base artwork is hand-drawn and then scanned into a computer and then animated the way they always do. Off hand, I would say, “So what?” But there is a difference: it really isn’t very appealing. I guess they are going for something like Lady and the Tramp. The problem here is that Lady and the Tramp is really not that appealing. I’m a Pinocchio guy.
Kids: there were a bunch of them. And they seemed to like it a lot. And they were very well behaved. (When I saw Babe in the theater the little joys were running up and down the isles.) I guess I can accept the occasional Disney movie for their benefit, but why did the dead firefly’s romantic life have to be so sad?