So as soon as I heard that Disney was coming out with their triumphant return to 2-D, I felt like the world was FINALLY getting its act together.
While CGI has produced some good hits, it isn't the same as 2-D. There was no one who could do cartoons like Disney, and I think they began to realize that.
I can honestly say that this movie is brilliant. I saw it last night, and it's still haunting me twenty-four hours later like I'd just walked out of the theater. If this movie had been A.) racist or B.) a let down, I would have been very angry and wouldn't take the time to write out this review. But my God, it was right up there alongside "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." Tiana, the long-awaited princess of the film, is a (gasp) real person! Her whole life does not revolve around getting married to the prince, nor does it involve some odd and harried "I'm totally a hardkore awesome person" plot. She has her faults. She's brash, a workaholic, and kind of a judgmental jerk. However, she is also headstrong, loving, and ridiculously intuitive. This is the sort of woman we need in a Disney cartoon for our kids to look up to, especially when the best role model they've had in the past few years is Bella Swann.
The prince, Naveen, is also an actual human being. He's cocky, spoiled, and hilarious. However, as the movie goes on, it is made quite clear (in a song by Randy Newman) that Naveen isn't happy at all. His and Tiana's relationship is based on self-discovery and mutual respect, rather than some of the other Disney movies where it is completely based on the need for a romantic plot. I see Belle and the Beast and Shang and Mulan (pre Mulan II, we can pretend that sequel doesn't exist), rather than Cinderella and Prince Charming. It seems like "Enchanted" really did bring a lot of new ideas to the Disney creed, and it completely shows in the way they tackle their archetypes in this refreshing rendition.
I was skeptical when I heard Randy Newman had composed the music. And yes, folks, it is in fact musical style. The characters sing, not Randy. And while you can still tell it's Randy, it's also Disney. The jazzy complexity of the songs drive the story forward and just wrap you up into the buzzing momentum of the film. I will definitely grab this soundtrack and play it religiously on my ipod, I promise you that.
As for the racism: It's Disney and regardless of what Disney does, someone is going to find something to point out as racist. However, let me just say that this movie is completely respectful and absolutely nothing in it is racist, to the point where it is obvious that Disney is trying their hardest NOT to be racist and cuts corners on the storytelling and historical racism that WOULD have been in New Orleans in 1920 (and to an extent, yes, still is). And as for turning Tiana into a frog ... she's a human for a good half the movie before she even thinks about kissing Naveen. She's a black princess, she's not a frog princess.
I also saw a comment about how someone didn't like it because of the non-Christian message thanks to the use of voodoo? They were so busy looking at the BAD GUY use voodoo that they didn't realize that Terrence Howard's character was pretty much a walking sermon! "You can wish on a star, but that can only take you halfway?" Where does this sound familiar? "Never lose sight of what's most important ... love." My God, the complete non-Christian message is abhorrent! The star is used as an allegory for God, and they wish on it with their hands folded ... practically one could say praying? And let's not even go into the full moral of the story: "You know what you want, but dig a little deeper and find what you need." How about that whole thanking God for unanswered prayers sort of ideal? These are good and wholesome lessons that are going to really strengthen the next generation of both boys and girls, and I'm happy that it's going to be an influence on the younger generation.
And the writing is amazing. As someone who writes for a living, I was completely floored at the structure of this film. You cover so much ground in 90 minutes, and you are never bored nor know what's going to happen next! Disney knows what they're doing (finally) on this film. It's amazingly put together, and all the trademarks you expect to see (animal sidekicks, creepy awesome villain, amazing soundtrack, knockout visuals, strong heroine) are there in full. Go see this movie, and remember how it was to be a kid again. This is an experience you absolutely need to have.
"Princess and the Frog" is here to stay.