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The Princess and the Frog

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

"The Frog Prince," a fairy tale that was already generations old when the Brothers Grimm committed it to writing in the early 19th century, gets a clever new twist in "The Princess and the Frog" (Disney). But this snappy variation on an ancient theme—any more specific description would constitute a spoiler—is just one inviting element in what is, overall, an enchanting animated musical.

Eschewing computer technology in favor of traditional hand-drawn artwork, directors and co-writers (with Rob Edwards) John Musker and Ron Clements skillfully conjure up the New Orleans of the 1920s, complete with brassy jazz, Mississippi steamboats and a partially authentic, though sanitized, version of the social and racial divisions of the time.

At once subject to those divides, yet defying them—probably to an unrealistic degree—are best-friends-since-childhood Charlotte (voice of Jennifer Cody) and Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose).

Charlotte, the spoiled, headstrong but nonetheless endearing daughter of wealthy white patriarch Big Daddy (voice of John Goodman) can afford dreams of splendor, and has long had her heart set on marrying a prince. African-American Tiana—whose mother Eudora (voice of Oprah Winfrey) is Charlotte's seamstress—has the more modest goal of fulfilling late father James' (voice of Terrence Howard) wish to open an elegant waterfront restaurant.

Through diligent drudgery, Tiana has come close to earning the requisite money, and Charlotte's cherished desire looks likely to be fulfilled as well when handsome, jazz-addicted playboy Prince Naveen of Maldonia (voice of Bruno Campos) arrives in the Crescent City.

But a shape-shifting spell cast by scheming voodoo sorcerer Dr. Facilier (voice of Keith David) complicates all their lives, leading to a journey to the bayou and the remote lair of its 179-year-old queen, Mama Odie (voice of Jenifer Lewis), whose good magic may undo the hex. Along the way, we meet two more vivid characters: sweet-natured, trumpet-playing alligator Louis (voice of Michael-Leon Wooley) and gap-toothed Cajun firefly Ray (voice of Jim Cummings).

As this lavish romance unfolds, enhanced by bouncy tunes from veteran pop star and film composer Randy Newman, hard-working Tiana and lazy, carefree Naveen—initially at Hepburn-Tracy loggerheads—eventually come to exercise a positive, balancing influence on each other. And the script, which emphasizes the value of love over material wealth throughout, reaches a resolution highlighting the transformative power of marital commitment.

Though images of fire-breathing masks and evil sprites may scare some tots, "The Princess and the Frog" otherwise provides quality entertainment for all ages.

The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G—general audiences. All ages admitted.

*********
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Giles: Despite the fact that much about St. Giles is shrouded in mystery, we can say that he was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Likely, he was born in the first half of the seventh century in southeastern France. That is where he built a monastery that became a popular stopping-off point for pilgrims making their way to Compostela in Spain and the Holy Land.<br /><br />In England, many ancient churches and hospitals were dedicated to Giles. One of the sections of the city of Brussels is named after him. In Germany, Giles was included among the so-called 14 Holy Helpers, a popular group of saints to whom people prayed, especially for recovery from disease and for strength at the hour of death. Also among the 14 were Sts. Christopher, Barbara and Blaise. Interestingly, Giles was the only non-martyr among them. Devotion to the "Holy Helpers" was especially strong in parts of Germany and in Hungary and Sweden. Such devotion made his popularity spread. Giles was soon invoked as the patron of the poor and the disabled.<br /><br />The pilgrimage center that once drew so many fell into disrepair some centuries after Giles' death. American Catholic Blog During this month of September, as we celebrate four feasts of Our Lady, let us learn from her: humility, purity, sharing, and thoughtfulness. We will then, like Mary, become holy people, being able to look up and see only Jesus; our light and example will be only Jesus; and we will be able to spread his fragrance everywhere we go. We will flood our souls with his Spirit and so in us, through us, and with us glorify the Father.

The Spirit of Saint Francis

 
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