Monday, January 4, 2010

Crabs & Frogs for 2010

2010. Jeepers!

All righty, I suppose I should get back to the virtual world of this site.

I'll start the posts off by telling you how I rang in the New Year.

On New Year's Eve, Bart and I had our usual and annual feast at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. Bart's sister Lage joined us this time. Once again, I found myself defeated. By which I mean the crab legs (as big as a baby's arm [which is only a slight exaggeration] without the shell) proved too much for me to tackle. Of course, that probably wouldn't be the case if I didn't also dine beforehand on scallops and stone crabs and stone crab bisque and butternut squash. I just never learn, as it's all so damn tasty that I/we can't stop ourselves... I skipped the lobster tail this year, although Bart and Lage had some. If you haven't (and want to) read it, Bart's guest post "report" about the experience from last year can be found here.

But before our meal, we saw Disney's latest animated feature, The Princess and the Frog.

All three of us thoroughly enjoyed it. I figured I might, given what I had seen of it. But I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. I've never been that much of a fan of the Frog Prince storyline, to be honest. But the House of Mouse spin on it certainly seemed intriguing. If you don't know - and this is not spoiler for they want you to know this part - the twist happens to be that kissing the frog turns the lady into a frog as well. So off they go on a quest to restore themselves to humans by seeking the help of Mama Odie the voodoo queen who lives deep in the bayou. (Also for those who don't know, it's set in New Orleans.) But what I really didn't expect: The other twists in the story.

First (too late), let me say why I didn't think I'd be that entralled besides not being all that keen on the source material. The firefly character seemed overly annoying in the trailer and advertisements. As if they tried too hard. The same goes for the alligator. They had the potential to be overdone and quickly tiresome. But on the contrary, Ray (firefly) and Louis (alligator) each proved to be a hoot. I loved each of them. (Bart and Lage, too.) Both characters really came into their own, developed beyond their all-too obvious visual jokes. Ray's a cajun, ugly rascal with huge rump/light and big-bellied, scaredy-cat Louis blows a trumpet. Sometimes disliking a character can sour a whole picture. But as I said, they brought quite the smiles.

I'm quite happy to report that Disney didn't skimp on the scary. Not that it terrified me per se, but it certainly had its share of freaky frights. After all, it is dealing with voodoo! Dr. Facilier [a.k.a. The Shadow Man] delivered a lot of spooky delights. The Mouse House allowed such elelmets as needing blood for spells and dark, sinister demons. Not that they've ever been so squeaky-clean that they didn't have such material before (such as Maleficient screaming "...and all the powers of hell!" while transmogrifying into one of the greatest dragon designs ever, Chernobog the Devil summoning ghastly entities from the infernal depths and the overly creepy rise of a titaness Ursula the Sea Witch.) But given that Princess and the Frog is Disney's proverbial "return" to '2-D' animation, it's nice to know they haven't lost their edge among the cute parts.

As for those twists I spoke of, well, I will not spoil them for you. But I did not see either of them coming, I can tell you that. Very clever indeed. One is almost like an exploited loophole. However, it's quite effective, as it catches the characters off guard, too. Well, most of them. One of them knew the whole time. ;) Glad I didn't.

The animation's top notch. No lack of effort there. Nothing like the cranked out direct-to-video stuff. Quite beautiful. It even changes styles here and there (dream sequences) and they handle each of those very nicely, too. Quite [ahem!] stylish (as well as stylized.)

Although I really haven't heard or read any bad reviews of the film, I have heard some complaints, as it were, that characters were too similiar to other films. Dr. Facilier, for example, has been called a rehash of Jafar from Aladdin. Louis the Alligator has been said to look exactly like the crocodile in Peter Pan. In addition, Louis also floats on his back in the water, with characters riding on his belly - which brings to mind Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book. Kaa the Snake from that film admittedly does share much in common with Mama Odie's snake helper. But I don't acknowledge these as rip-offs. They're most definitely homages. Disney's notorious for homages. Both to and in their own films as well as other movies. They don't feel like re-uses at all. They're most definitely nods. If you want an example of a rehash, try the giant octopus in Return to Never Land. Now that's a recycled, unimaginative bit - down to the eye movement and the tick-schlock noise of the suction cups - to say nothing of the exact same storyline as the original. But I digress. Dr. Facilier, Louis and the serpent all have their own personalities entirely. They're not trying to recreate the same characters, merely tipping a hat to them.

They also managed to reference some key fairy tale elements - such as the infamous needing to be finished by midnight or all is lost.

Lately a lot of music (words and score) in some musicals have made me yawn, but these tunes are rockin' - just as one would expect from a New Orleans setting. Very fun and sweet lyrics, too. The kind that advance a scene or idea, as a good song in a musical should.

It's not the crown jewel in Disney's treasures, but it deserves a place in their trove for sure.

After the movie and dinner Bart and I counted down the time to midnight watching Season 1 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which Banky gifted me with for Xmas. We just got into Sunny this past year, so it proved quite a treat to begin our "catch up." Thanks, Banky!

All in all, a very satisfying ringing into 2010.


Anonymous said...

Facilier is nothing like Jafar.

Peter said...

Well, Anonymous Commenter, that's precisely my point. I'm not the one who compared him to Jafar. I'd seen/heard it elsewhere.

However, they do have some similarities... skinny and lanky, long face, moustache, walking stick that doubles as a magical device, has designs on taking control of the city...

But my reason for mentioning it is because I found those who said so to be wrong. :)