The flick tells the tale of Tiana, a good-hearted, but born into poverty, New Orleans girl who seems to have a divine gift for Cajun cuisine. Problem is, no matter how great she seems to be, she just doesn’t have the money or clout to open up her own restaurant. Suddenly a frog shows up at her window sill saying he is a prince and if she kisses him he’ll be turned back into a human and will give her all the money she needs to open that restaurant. Well, she does it. Problem is, not only does he not turn into a human, but she actually turns into a frog. Oh, and he’s broke anyway, so the whole ‘I’ll give you all the money you need’ thing was a crock. Tiana and Prince Naveen must now find a sympathetic voodoo practitioner who will help them undo the spell that the nasty Dr. Facilier put on Prince Naveen.
There are really two things I wanna say about this movie. One, the whole thing felt incredibly simple-minded and formulaic. Let’s start with the fact that Tiana has tried for decades to get a restaurant going. Not only does she work in two different restaurants but she knows arguably the richest, most powerful man in town. Not only does she know him, but she’s been best friends with his daughter since she was a little girl. So, if she has an otherworldly talent for cooking and has major, powerful connections, what the heck’s the problem? I mean, I know she’s poor, but surely this dude could at least get her a bank loan. I like the idea of doing some classic Disney, but this didn’t seem like a thoughtful homage as much as a recycling. They might as well have just taken a few older Disney classics, mixed them together, placed it in New Orleans and called it a day. It was way too predictable and forgettable.
However, this leads me to my second point. Disney knows who they are talking to, and, here, they were not talking to a 30-something film geek. They were, however, talking to grade school-aged girls. The girls in the audience, my 8-year-old daughter included, freaking loved it. I kid you not, my daughter literally hugged me at a point in the movie. They all stared unblinkingly at the screen with fantasy and romance plastered on their faces and gobbled up every second of it. While I may have thought it a giant bore, Disney wasn’t talking to me and the audience they were talking to heard them loud and clear.