Saturday, February 06, 2010

Grant, Parker are no match for Disney’s animated characters

MANILA, Philippines—This week, Disney’s hand-drawn cartoon heroes (“The Princess and the Frog”) trounce their human counterparts (“Did You Hear About the Morgans?”) in the romance department: Marc Lawrence’s “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” follows estranged New York couple, Paul and Meryl Morgan (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker), as they are whisked away by federal agents to rural Wyoming after witnessing a murder.

Paul and Meryl still love each other, but they have lost sight of the reasons that initially brought them together. In no time, the small town’s simple and stress-free environment forces them to spend quality time with each other. And, it makes them realize how unwise it is for couples to put a premium on pride over compromise. But, just as they reconsider their feelings for each other, the gun-toting baddie shows up and puts them in mortal danger.

But, it may have been wiser for the couple to stay apart—because Parker and Grant don’t have much chemistry. To be fair, they’re likable performers individually, but they simply don’t generate enough sparks to ignite the screen—or make those turgid I-love-you-but-I-can’t-live-with-you lines sizzle as they should.
Worse, Grant and Parker are given dialogue that’s as derivative as it is frustratingly trite. Their romantic collaboration proves that star power isn’t enough to sell a movie, especially one featuring a story that is best left unheard—and unseen.

At the other end of the romantic spectrum is Disney’s animated gem, John Musker and Ron Clements’ Oscar-nominated “The Princess and the Frog,” which is significant because it’s Disney’s first cinematic fairy tale with an African-American princess, Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), in the lead.

Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the Roaring ’20s , it follows the love story of headstrong waitress and aspiring chef, Tiana, and the dashing Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruno Campos), who is transformed into a frog by the cunning voodoo magician, Dr. Facilier aka The Shadow Man (Keith David). Mistaking the dusky beauty for a princess, Naveen turns Tiana into a frog after he convinces her to kiss him.

To turn their fortunes around, the “amphibian” pair embarks on an exciting journey deep into the darkest recesses of the magical bayou, with their feisty new friends—the jazz-loving, trumpet-playing alligator, Louis, and the hopeless romantic Cajun firefly, Ray—to seek the help of a blind voodoo priestess, Mama Odie. Then, glorious music and magical whimsy elevate the duo’s odd relationship to something beyond friendship.


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