Tuesday, January 5, 2010

An Ignorant Review by an Ignorant Guy

Much has been made of this new flick, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. It's historical, see? Some of Disney's most iconic (and by that I mean marketable) characters are the princesses, and the princesses tend to have one major thing in common - the color of their skin. With the exception of Jasmine (the Arab lovely from ALADDIN), they're all whiteys. And no, Mulan is not a princess. She does kick serious heiney, but she's no princess. Nope, almost all of the cadre of cartoon chicks are caucasian. So, when Disney announced that they were making a new movie with an African-American princess, it got interesting. There were various cries of 'hooray' and 'hallelujah', and 'it's about time'! There were criticisms too - when first announced, our heroine was not Tiana, but Maddy, and a chambermaid to boot. Which seems like the kind of thing a bunch of old white guys in a board room would come up with. After some protestations, changes were made. Maddy became Tiana, and the chambermaid became an aspiring restaurant owner.

As an ignorant white dude who's always been an ignorant white dude, I tried to put myself in the position of an African-American lady who has grown up watching these Disney princess movies and walking through the toy store down the princess aisle and seeing only white faces (cause Jasmine almost never gets toy love). I tried to imagine what it's like to be told as a little girl that the most beautiful women are Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella. And you know what I realized? I realized that I can't imagine it. I have no idea. At the end of the day, I'm still an ignorant white guy.

So I changed strategies. I decided to just watch the dang movie through my own ignorant eyes and the eyes of my six-year-old white daughter. And here's the deal: it's a really good movie. Beyond all of the racial and societal issues, it's a great flick to watch with your kid. It's got scary bad guys and great music and awesome animation and talking alligators and fireflies and a fat guy and good writing and, well, you get the idea.

The basic story line is about a girl who has grown up poor in New Orleans and wants to realize the dream of her father - to own a restaurant. Tiana is an amazing cook and a hard worker. She's saved up her pennies and dimes to buy her own place. And just when her dream is about to come true, the bad stuff starts happening. There's bad dude called The Shadow Man who meddles in dark forces. Folks get turned into frogs (naturally). And it all turns out pretty well in the end. The music is excellent - Randy Newman meets N'awlins jazz. It's a sondtrack worth buying.

Now, you'll hear me complain from time to time that I don't get to see many grown-up movies at the theater these days, but after a film like this, I should be raving about how I get to see so many kids' movies. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG gets 5 Evangelines out of 5.

And you know my favorite part? Laney didn't even mention that Tiana was black. She just talked about how pretty she was.


the hamster said...

i'm way stoked to see this. and i might feel a bit impatient waiting for the wife.

the thing i'm most excited about in this film? raymond. i hear that firefly is the bee's knees.

and a 5/5? you, like, never do that. you're the reason i jump to 4/5 so often. i'm saving my next 100% till something oozes out of me during the viewing process.

Amber@theRunaMuck said...

Love love love love this. Thank you.

the hamster said...

i just want everybody to know that one of the reasons i love john barber is because he watches ZOMBIELAND at 8:00 in the morning. that's frickin' awesome.

Janna Barber said...

You and your talking alligators. Wish I could have seen it with you. It's good that you realize and admit your ignorance. And if a film isn't worth watching and enjoying with your kids, then it shouldn't have the name Disney attached to it.