In 1940s New Orleans, Tiana (voiced by Rose) has grown up with a dream to have her own jazz joint. But as a young black woman she has to work two jobs to make ends meet. One day the sinister Facilier (David) turns a visitor, Prince Naveen (Campos), into a frog as part of an elaborate plot to take over the city. But things don't go as expected Tiana reluctantly kisses the frog, and soon they're lost in the bayou with only a trumpet-playing gator (Wooley) and a lovelorn firefly (Cummings) to help them.
Despite several raucous twists and turns, the story is pretty simple, but the animation more than makes up for it. The film is designed and directed with wit and invention, constantly surprising us with gorgeous little touches and hilarious throwaway gags. Vivid colours, kinetic motion, a jazzy vibe and a wonderful sense of light keep us visually entranced, while the characters' vivacity keeps us engaged.
Within the confines of the fairy tale, the screenwriters have fun peppering the dialog with witty references ("You can't just wish on a star to get things!") and making the scary stuff genuinely thrilling. Facilier is a creepy villain, with his slithery physicality and vicious actions. He actually makes us worry as things get very dark along the way. During other scenes, the filmmakers pile on the verbal and visual wit, with several hugely endearing characters along the way.
Repetitive lyrics make Randy Newman's songs feel rather thin, although they propel the story nicely. Tiana's main theme "Almost There" at least has a nice hook to it. But what's really memorable is the way the film looks, with some truly cool sequences (there's not nearly enough of the Mardi Gras parade) and a remarkably nasty climax that actually makes us think. And it also makes this film feel more like Disney of old than the cheery, silly things we've become used to.
Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th December 2009
Box Office USA: $104.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $104.4M
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
Production compaines: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 137 Rotten: 27
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
Starring: Anika Noni Rose as Tiana, Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen, Keith David as Dr. Facilier, Michael-Leon Wooley as Louis, Jennifer Cody as Charlotte, Jim Cummings as Ray, Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie, Oprah Winfrey as Eudora, Terrence Howard as James, John Goodman as 'Big Daddy' La Bouff
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