Sunday, December 13, 2009


Animated romantic comedy

Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm studied law at the University of Marburg in Germany. Inspired by one of their professors they became interested in folklore and primitive literature and began collecting oral renditions and published manuscripts of of folk stories. The two brothers, patriots determined to preserve Germanic folktales, in 1812 published their first volume of fairy tales entitled Tales of Children and the Home telling of life as generations of central Europeans knew it—capricious and often cruel.

Between 1816 and 1818 they published two volumes of German legends and a volume of early literary history. By this time they had gathered an immense collection of stories and the brothers became interested in older languages and their relation to German. Jacob began to specialize in the history and structure of the German language and formulated what is today known as Grimm's Law.

In the meantime seeing how the tales bewitched young readers, the Grimms (and editors aplenty after them), started "fixing" things up a bit. Tales gradually got softer, sweeter and primly moral. The result is today we have such all time favourites as Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella and of course The Frog Prince.

Breanna Brooks: young Charlotte La Bouff
Elizabeth Dampier: her best friend young Tiana
Oprah Winfrey: Tiana’s mother Eudora, a seamstress
Terrence Howard: Tiana’s father James
Anika Noni Rose: 19-year-old Tiana, a waitress and aspiring chef
Bruno Campos: 20-year-old Prince Naveen of Malvonia
Peter Bartlett: his valet Lawrence
Jennifer Cody: 20-something-year-old Charlotte
John Goodman: her wealthy father “Big Daddy”
Keith David: villainious voodoo magician Dr. Facilier
Michael-Leon Wooley: Louis the Alligator
Jim Cummings: Raymond “Ray”, a Cajun firefly
Jenifer Lewis: good voodoo priestess Mama Odie

A modern twist to a classic tale now set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the American Jazz Era of the 1920’s with the first ever African-American princess. But it is not the simple rendering of a fairytale: with so many musical sequences it feels like a Broadway musical. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the music is not good, because it is, all I’m saying is that it is more like Beauty and the Beast than Snow White. Not bad, just different.

However the story gets a bit complicated (I’ll not say more for fear of giving away anything) so I’m not sure the younger ones in the audience could follow all the nuances. To be honest, I was struggling to keep things sorted out.

What it does have going for it is a host of characters, some of whom are charming and cute. Others are not: the voodoo doctor and the ghostly images of fire-breathing masks and evil spirits may scare some of the little ones. Typical modern day Walt Disney stuff.

Overall it looks gorgeous, is entertaining but not too "preachy": about the only recurrent moral message is that wishing upon a star can only take you so far, that you have to do something yourself to help that wish along. In other words, sometimes you have to dig a little deeper. I’ll keep that in mind.


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