Movie review: The Princess and the Frog

Disney has always set the standard for animation - so The Princess and the Frog arrives not just as a new animated feature, but as part of a lengthy heritage that goes all the way back to Snow White.

Still, this is Disney's first hand-drawn musical in five years, after the unmemorable Home on the Range. Will an old-school animated film beguile digital-age tots?

How could it not? Princess/Frog has a headlong story, to go with its brilliantly imaginative and fanciful visuals. And it offers a bright, upbeat score by Randy Newman, who covers a lot of ground while maintaining a feel for New Orleans' many musical sounds.

Yes, New Orleans: This version of the Brothers' Grimm's fairy tale has been modernized to the 20th century - to Jazz-Age Big Easy. It's still a classical narrative about a hero's sacrifice for a greater good - and, in fairy tales, good deeds always seem to be rewarded. But Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), Disney's first African-American heroine, isn't really a princess, at least not at the start.

Instead, she's a waitress who harbors a dream given to her by her late father: to own a restaurant and cook her own kind of food. She still lives with her mother and saves her money regularly.

Tiana's best friend, a white debutante named Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), is to be presented to Naveen, a visiting prince with a Hispanic accent (Bruno Campos). Charlotte (and her father, voiced by John Goodman) both harbor fantasies of her marrying a handsome prince. But the local voodoo doctor, Facilier (Keith David), also known as the Shadow Man, gets his hooks into Naveen, transforming him into a frog. When the newly amphibian Naveen mistakes Tiana for a princess and convinces her to kiss him, she turns into a frog, too. Continued...

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