December 14, 2009
Family Film Blogging: The Princess and the Frog
Posted by Christine Hurt

So, Saturday night all five of the Hurtcils went to the movies, from age 2 on up.  All three kids (10, 8 and 2) were excited to see The Princess and the Frog (or as Will says, Frog and Princess).  This much-awaited Disney-NonPixar film seemed to attract all of their attentions.  The first thing we noticed was that the theater was nearly empty at 6:15 p.m. on the first Saturday.  Not a great sign.  But, I had read Champaign's own Roger Ebert's positive review, which said "This is what classic animation once was like!"  And he was right -- it is very classic Disney.  (In fact, some characters look a little familiar -- the snake from Robin Hood?  the alligator from The Rescuers?

The movie, which doesn't depend on computer animation to make you go "wow," has an actual plot, and it's very compelling.  My eight-year-old boy was very into it, and was talking to the screen for the last half hour.  And, like classic Disney, it's scary.  Really scary.  The movie is rated G because (unlike most kids' movies these days) it doesn't try to have veiled double entendres for the adults and cartoon action for the kids.  There is no potty humor, no bodily function noises, etc.  Yay!  But, there's good old-fashioned scare-your-pants off bad guys.  Only here, the bad guys are evil voodoo spirits.  Remember Sleeping Beauty?  Yeah, like that.

Of course, the most notable aspect of the movie is that the main character -- the princess -- is African-American, the first African-American heroine Disney has chosen.  Although Disney could have taken on some 1920s racial issues ( a la the gender issues in Mulan), it chose not to.  So, no one seems to notice that Tiana's best friend is white, or that she and her friend are vying for the affections of the same prince, who is of indeterminate race from a made-up foreign country.  In fact, Tiana's dreams of owning a restaurant are belittled because she is a girl, but no one mentions her race.  But Disney may be more of a social mover than anyone if thousands of children of all races ask for a Tiana doll for Christmas/Hanukkah, right?

For us law professors, the best part of going to see the movie is that it is set in New Orleans and cajun food is the best supporting actor here.  I was getting very hungry (and homesick for Houston) just watching.  I have a box of Cafe du Monde beignet mix, courtesy of friend of the Glom Elizabeth Nowicki, that I'm going to bust out tonight!

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