tek's rating: ½

The Princess and the Frog (G)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This came out in 2009, but I didn't manage to see it until 2014, though I'd been wanting to see it for quite awhile. It begins with two little girls, Charlotte La Bouff and Tiana (whose last name is never mentioned), listening to a story told by Tiana's mother, a seamstress working for Charlotte's father. The story is "The Frog Prince," and while Charlotte would gladly kiss a frog if he'd turn into a prince, Tiana says she'd never kiss a frog. Anyway, Tiana and her mother go home, and we learn that Tiana's father has a dream of opening a restaurant, which also becomes Tiana's dream.

Then the movie flashes forward to Tiana as a young woman, working as a waitress in 1920s New Orleans. She's been saving every penny for years, hoping to eventually make a down payment on an old, run-down former sugar mill she plans to convert into a restaurant. Her father had died some time ago, which made her more determined than ever to make his dream come true. Meanwhile, Prince Naveen of Maldonia is coming to New Orleans, where he'll be staying with Charlotte and her father (who has been named king of the city's Mardi Gras festivities). They hire Tiana to cater their masquerade ball, which means she'll finally have enough money to buy the mill. So of course she's excited about that, and Charlotte (who is still good friends with Tiana) is excited to finally be meeting a prince, whom she hopes to marry. However, before the ball, Naveen and his servant, Lawrence, are wandering around town, when they meet a witch doctor named Facilier (who will more often be referred to as the Shadow Man). He knows that Naveen has been cut off financially by his parents, which means Naveen will have to marry someone wealthy (like Charlotte), if he wants to maintain his carefree lifestyle. Facilier also knows that Lawrence is upset about always being ordered around by people like Naveen. He plays on both their desires to get them to agree to his plan, though it turns out he'd lied to Naveen...

Later, at the ball, Naveen and Charlotte seem to hit it off, but Tiana gets some bad news about her own plans. And then she meets a talking frog... who turns out to be the real Prince Naveen. (The one Charlotte's been dancing with is actually a transformed Lawrence.) Thinking she's a princess, Naveen wants Tiana to kiss him and turn him back into a human. She's reluctant, but he promises to help finance her restaurant, so she finally agrees. But since she's not a princess, the kiss ends up turning her into a frog. The two of them then get chased into the bayou, where they get chased by alligators. But later they meet a friendly alligator named Louis, who just wants to be a trumpet player in a jazz band. (He vaguely reminded me of Tiger from the American Tail movies.) So, Louis and Naveen immediately bond over their shared love of jazz. And Louis agrees to take them to see a voodoo priestess named Mama Odie, who could turn them human again, and hopefully also turn Louis into a human, so he could follow his own dream. However, they later find out he's been taking them the wrong way, when they meet a Cajun firefly named Raymond. So finally they start heading in the right direction. But meanwhile, the Shadow Man, who is in debt to some evil spirits, gets help from those spirits in finding the frogs, since he needs Naveen's blood to keep his plan going, which would ultimately result in him controlling New Orleans, and delivering souls to the spirits.

And, gosh, just so much stuff happens. Predictably, Naveen and Tiana start out as complete opposites, but end up falling in love. There's a bit of a snag in all that because Mama Odie tells them to turn human again, Naveen will have to be kissed by a princess. They kind of already knew that, but she informs them of a technicality they hadn't considered, one which makes time of the essence. And, I guess I don't really want to say any more about the plot. But the movie has some really good music, great animation, and decent humor. Sometimes the story gets kind of redonkulous, but it's still a good story, with good characters, a fair amount of heart, serious drama, and a mostly happy ending. So... it's just a really fun movie.

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