Monday, January 4, 2010

When You Wish Upon a Star . . .

. . . you get stomped to death by an evil voodoo doctor. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Disney.

Last week, I took my daughter to see The Princess and the Frog. She already had the doll, the book, and had seen the preview a million times. She was ready. I, on the other hand, was not. You see, my daughter has no imagination – so, what she sees on screen, she believes is real. This led to her sobbing throughout the entire Clifford movie because the big red dog was separated from Emily Elizabeth. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that everyone lived happily ever after – but my daughter didn’t realize that. The poor little thing sat in that dark theater, with tears pouring down her face, occasionally begging me to make them get back together, and it was just heartbreaking. She was the very picture of abject misery and grief. So, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to the death and disillusionment of the modern Disney movie. At least Clifford had been part of the free summer movie series – this time, I was paying for the nightmares.

But, a promise is a promise and off we went. Now, I admit that I attended a grand total of two new releases last year (Star Trek and New Moon), but unless the running time of movies has changed dramatically, what on earth were people going to do with the feeder bags of popcorn? The recommended serving of popcorn is three cups. The kid’s size has twice that. The adult-size, without extra butter, has the same amount of fat as eight Big Macs. Yes, that will supersize my ass quite nicely, thanks. You could watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended versions) with that same amount of popcorn. Plus, we went to an 11:10 movie – so conceivably, everyone just had breakfast, right? The latest you would get out, with previews, would be 1pm leaving plenty of time to eat lunch before nap. Is that much popcorn really necessary? But I digress.

I liked the movie. The heroine was plucky and interesting, the prince had a voice like honey, and the songs were entertaining. I visited New Orleans years ago under extenuating circumstances that ruined any chance of it being fun, I have always longed to go back, and the movie helped remind me why I liked it so much. I giggled when John Goodman yelled out “Stella” in his best Tennessee William’s voice, and I thought the class distinctions were subtle yet clear. But of course, there were deaths.

[Warning, here there be spoilers.]

I am forever thankful that Tiana’s father was killed off-screen and we weren’t treated to an animated version of the 92nd Division heroic participation in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. However, Disney animators really need to get over their family issues and stop killing off the freaking parents. As a parent myself, I’m starting to find the practice a little disconcerting. Plus, did the Cajun firefly have to get, well, all right, there really is no other way to say it – squashed like a bug? And even if he did, did we have to watch the funeral? In all six rows of the tiniest theater in NJ, kids were asking their parents what was happening on screen, and in all six rows of the tiniest theater in NJ, parents were refusing to answer.

Then there was Dr. Facilier, whom The Little Golden book describes as a “bad magic man.” Considering that he brings forth the souls of hell to do his bidding, calling him merely bad is an understatement. When he got his final comeuppance, the kind woman next to me gently suggested that I hide my little ones eyes – and I certainly did. I am pretty sure the under-six age group doesn’t need to see a person dragged down to hell while still screaming. If I wanted her to see that, I’d rent Hellraiser.

Overall, the experience was positive. My daughter claimed she loved the movie, though I noticed that when she told her father all about it, she mostly focused on the clothes. He learned what Tiana wore in every scene, but not a whole lot about the actual plot. But no nightmares - so far.

I, for one, am thankful to Disney for allowing Tiana to be loved because she did actually have a great personality and not because she was naked. The prince fell in love with her because she worked hard and tried to be a good person, not because she had a very, very long tongue. Positive messages! I like that in a princess.

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