Family Filmgoer: 'The Princess and the Frog'
The Princess and the Frog (G, 95 minutes) Disney's new animated feature completely reimagines "The Frog Princess" by E.D. Baker. Kids 6 and older ought to be utterly taken with it. Set in New Orleans, the movie features a young African American woman, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) as its heroine. The charm-and-humor-rich characters, coupled with Randy Newman's catchy tunes, have been blended into a highly enjoyable, if not wholly transporting, entertainment.
Tiana is a gifted chef and dreams of opening her own restaurant. Meanwhile, handsome-but-broke Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) arrives in search of jazz and a rich girl to marry. He and his valet are hookwinked by an evil voodoo "shadowman," Dr. Facilier (Keith David), who turns him into a frog and his valet (Peter Bartlett) into a faux Naveen that Facilier can control.
Tiana meets Naveen-as-frog during a party. The frog begs Tiana to kiss him and change him back, but when she does she's turned into a frog, too. They flee in search of a voodoo priestess who can help them.
Eventually, all the people are restored to their human forms. The film deals with segregation in subtle ways. It's subtly implied that Tiana's father, James (Terrence Howard), dies in World War I. Dr. Facilier (Keith David) and the demons he conjures are pretty spooky. One animal character dies and has a funeral. Some of the humor is a little crude, but kid-friendly.
8 and older
"Fantastic Mr. Fox" (PG). "Fantastic Mr. Fox" uses old-style stop-motion animation to wondrous effect. Director Wes Anderson has created a film that anyone 8 and older can enjoy. The film may be too intense for younger children when Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and all the woodland creatures frantically dig tunnels to escape farmers. Mr. Fox moves his family into a tree facing the land of three farmers. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), Mr. Fox aims to raid the farms. He involves his nephew (Eric Chase Anderson) but ignores his son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman). Ash eventually proves the moral -- what makes you different is what makes you special. The animals' droll expression "the cuss you are!" is the only strongish language.
"Invictus." Reverent, slow and stately, this docudrama, directed by Clint Eastwood, is more good intentions than good art. It chronicles how Nelson Mandela (a convincing Morgan Freeman) sought to pull white and black citizens together with sports. Mandela urges the captain of South Africa's troubled national rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), to rally his players to victory against the odds in the 1995 World Cup. There is some profanity, implied racism and threats of violence that don't materialize. Okay for teens.
"Me and Orson Welles." Teen idol Zac Efron may not reach his fans with this rather stilted period film. He plays a theater-loving high school kid who lands a role with Orson Welles's fabled Mercury Theatre. Young Richard (Efron) mingles with the capricious, brilliant Welles (Christian McKay), finds romance with Welles's assistant (Claire Danes) and meets future stars Joseph Cotten (James Tupper) and John Houseman (Eddie Marsan). There's plenty of good acting, but Efron still lacks big-screen gravitas. There is much smoking, drinking, implied promiscuity, sexual slang and profanity. Not for middle-schoolers.
"Armored." This movie wastes the talents of several good actors and an audience's time. But high-schoolers who crave action flicks may find it marginally diverting. Columbus Short plays Ty, a new guard with an armored truck company, brought in by Mike (Matt Dillon), who lures him into hijacking a truckful of cash. The heist has turned bloody, thanks to one cohort (Laurence Fishburne). There are shootings, stabbings, fires and explosions. There is also drinking, midrange profanity and a theme about losing one's parents.