December 2009 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 12/11/2009
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in December of 2009. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
Set in New Orleans in the jazz-age 1920’s, Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose) is a waitress who is saving up her tips so that she can buy a dilapidated building in order to turn it into a restaurant to show off her excellent culinary skills. Ever since she was a child (voice of Elizabeth Dampier, Tiana as a child), her late father James (voice of Terrence Howard) dreamed of owning a restaurant, and she wanted to make his dreams come true. She finally saves up enough money, but is outbid, and she feels like she let down her father and her mother Eudora (voice of Oprah Winfrey.) If she can come up with more money to top the other clients bid by the following Wednesday, she will lose the property. Meanwhile, Naveen (voice of Bruno Campos), the prince of a fictional country named Maldonia, is in New Orleans in search of a good time. His butler/assistant, Lawrence (voice of Peter Bartlett), quickly reminds him that he has been disowned by his royal parents because of his irresponsible playboy ways…so he’s not exactly rich at the moment. If he marries a princess, his parents will forgive him. There is a party thrown by local millionaire “Big Daddy” La Bouff (voice of John Goodman) in the prince’s honor in order to introduce him to his spoiled daughter Charlotte (voice of Jennifer Cody) with the hopes that he will marry her and make her a princess. Charlotte has been friends with Tiana since they were kids, so Charlotte hires Tiana to make her delicious goodies for the event in order to help her make some extra money. Charlotte shows Tiana the tiara she plans to wear in order to impress the prince. Tiana puts it on, and then she goes out on the balcony to wish on a star for the way to get her restaurant. It’s on the balcony that she sees a frog, who says that he is really the prince. He says that if she will kiss him, he will turn back into a prince and he will help her get her restaurant. Even though she is grossed out about it, she kisses him…and she turns into a frog! The reason that both of them are frogs now is because Naveen met a voodoo-practicing conman named Dr. Facilier (voice of Keith David) who turns him into a frog. He does this because he wants to get his hands on the La Bouff fortune by turning Naveen into a frog (to get him out of the way) and turn the disillusioned Lawrence into the prince. The “prince” would marry Charlotte and get the La Bouff money (after killing Big Daddy, of course.) Facilier needs the prince’s blood in order to keep Lawrence disguised as the prince, but Naveen has escaped. The reason why Tiana turned into a frog is that he thought she was a princess (because of the tiara.) The two have escaped to the bayou though, and they meet a jazz-loving alligator named Louis (voice of Michael Leon-Wooley) and a goofy firefly named Ray (voice of Jim Cummings) who is in love with a star named Evangeline (he thinks the star is a firefly.) They tell Tiana and Naveen that a voodoo queen named Mama Odie (voice of Jenifer Lewis) might have the power to lift the curse and turn them back into humans. This is Disney’s first traditionally hand-drawn animated feature since 2004’s Home on the Range, and its first African-American princess. All I cared about was whether it was a good movie or not. Well…it’s good. Very good! I’ve long said that I don’t care if an animated feature was computer-animated or hand-drawn…as long as it entertained me. I’ve never cared about the color of the skin of animated characters, so that was never a factor. One other thing that has been missing from Disney animated features lately…the music! I think that the last Disney musical with the characters singing original songs was 1997’s Hercules. It’s nice to see the traditional Disney musical come back! Despite being hand-drawn, the animation was beautiful, the story was interesting (loosely based on the 2002 novel The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker, which itself was inspired by the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale The Frog Prince), and the characters (especially Naveen in frog version and Ray) were funny. I really hope that Disney keeps it up and brings back a Disney musical renaissance.
Princess Victoria (Emily Blunt) is about to celebrate her 18th birthday…and she’s about to rule England. Since King William (Jim Broadbent) has no other heirs, she will rule…but this is 1837, and she is barely allowed to go to the bathroom, much less rule a country. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), and the Duchess’ advisor, Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), try to force her to sign a regency order that will…upon the King’s death…give the Duchess (and Conroy as a result) control over the country. Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold (Thomas Kretschmann) of Belgium, wants to arrange the marriage of his nephew, Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), to her so that his house could rule. Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) becomes her advisor and places his friends and associates into her court. The scheme to rule the monarch fails, and Victoria assumes the crown upon her father’s death…but she is considered the first symbolic queen and not the ruler of England, as the Prime Minister is the actual ruler. She still has many people trying to win her favor…including former Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel (Michael Maloney), who wants to become Prime Minister again. Normally, I’m not a big fan of these old English movies (like the two Elizabeth movies), but this one wasn’t too bad. Blunt…whom you may remember as the spiteful senior assistant to Meryl Streep’s character in the 2006 movie The Devil Wears Prada…is excellent as Victoria. She gets to shine in one of her first leading roles, and she has already been nominated in several award shows…including Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Golden Globes…and might go onto becoming nominated for an Oscar. When I say not bad, I mean that it was slightly better than what I would normally rate for this type of movie. When I heard the screenplay was written by Julian Fellowes…the writer of the 2001 Robert Altman film Gosford Park, which bored me to tears…I was a little concerned. I’ve always thought that a good director could make the best out of a terrible script, or vice versa. Not that Altman is a bad director…but maybe he just wasn’t the right fit for the script. Jean-Marc Vallée seemed to take Fellowes’ script and make it into a movie that was more interesting than I thought it would be. Oh…did you know that Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, the Duchess of York, was one of the producers of the film? If you go to this movie, please be a fan of Victorian-era pics or just admire the acting of Blunt. If not…maybe you might want to hold off and rent this movie later.
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