Who's In It: The voices of Anika Noni Rose, John Goodman, Keith David, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Cummings
The Basics: A young African-American woman in Depression-era New Orleans meets a frog who's really a prince. She's not all that happy about kissing him to restore him back to his original incarnation, but he assures her that, as a reward, he'll help her make the down payment on the dream building where she plans to open a restaurant. The kiss backfires, turns her amphibian and starts the not-in-lovers on a journey of transformation where she resists his Pepe LePew routine the entire way. But a Disney princess can only protest and assert her independence for so long before she gives in to love. It's a contractual obligation.
What's The Deal: It's hard to hate a movie where characters say stuff like, "You are secreting mucus." But it's also hard to shake the nagging feeling that this movie is a calculated marketing move to keep on selling princess lifestyle accessories to little girls. Not that it matters too much, I guess. I have a niece who used to never take off her Cinderella costume and now she's in a punk rock band. So it doesn't always scar you for life. And the film is charming, pretty to look at, has nice songs, an overall tone of decency and sweetness and a princess you don't feel needs someone to sit her down and give her any self-reliance advice. She's worthy of the job. Can't ask much more than that from a film like this.
Additional Refreshing Qualities: Old-fashioned, non-digital 2D animation that doesn't require squeezing your skull into uncomfortable plastic glasses for 90 minutes, characters that are more than empty shells for lazy A-list voice cast members to plug their own personalities into like they're reciting a grocery list, and a thankfully non-frantic pace. Nothing says ran-out-of-ideas faster than an over-reliance on trying to recapture the energy of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
Is She There Yet? After paying her dues in crapfests like From Justin to Kelly and winning a Tony on Broadway and playing third fiddle to Beyonce and J-Hud in Dreamgirls, it's about time someone cast Anika Noni Rose as the lead in something. Next step: letting her do it in person.