I knew I couldn't go to a matinee showing of The Princess and the Frog by myself without seeming like I was either developmentally disabled or a candy-offering pervert, so I recruited my mother to be my movie-going companion a few weeks ago. While I would certainly revel in the hand-drawn Disney animation and the handful of Randy Newman songs (his 1988 album, Land of Dreams, is one of my all time favorites, and his score for 1990's Avalon is exquisite), I knew my mom would dig the story of a black princess with a simple dream of opening up her own restaurant in 1920s New Orleans. My mother, if you recall, has been waiting tables all her life and currently manages a small cafe on the lot of a car dealership. (And, by the way, her food-service career is all my fault—she had to drop out of school when she was pregnant with me, I am reminded time and time again. Asian Mother Guilt—you gotta love it.)
Tickled to the point embarrassment by my desire to see The Princess and the Frog, my mom spent most of the afternoon speaking to me in baby talk. "Son, do you have to go to the bathroom before the movie starts?" "Son, do you need a napkin to wipe your mouth after eating your popcorn?" "Son, do you like it when mommy takes you to the movies?"
Anyway, The Princess and the Frog (perhaps a corrective measure to Disney's controversial—racist?—Song of the South, which has never been released on video or DVD due to said controversy) is a lot of fun, features great voice work by Dreamgirls' Anika Noni Rose (who wowed me when she was doing theater in San Francisco years ago, particularly in Athol Fugard's Valley Song), and a Dixieland-inspired collection of terrific songs by Randy Newman.
Listen to "Down in New Orleans," performed with verve by the one-and-only Dr. John, after a prologue by Rose:
By the way, I'm not naive to the fact that things like race relations and segregation are kind of swept under the rug in The Princess and the Frog, but, c'mon, people, it's a kids' movie.... At least that's what my mommy tells me.