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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.

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


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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