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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

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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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Silence is the ability to trust that God is acting, teaching, and using me—even before I perform or after my seeming failures. Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing. God takes it from there.

 
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