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Film: The Princess and the frog * * * / Youth in revolt * *

Disney returns to its roots with this old-style animated fairy tale but the studio also breaks new ground

(animation. Featuring the voices of Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Bruno Campos, Michael-Leon Wooley. Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements. cert General)

It's been a cracking past 12 months for animated features, with Pixar breaking new ground with the brilliant Up, Coraline bringing the fright back to fairy tales and solid entertainment provided by Bolt, Monsters vs Aliens and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

In this climate, with boundaries being pushed ever further, it may seem like a retrograde step for Disney to return to their traditional look and style, but John Lasseter getting John Musker and Ron Clements (who had co-directed The Little Mermaid and Aladdin) back on board for this latest feature indicates that certain qualities are to be cherished.

Much has been made of the fact that The Princess and the Frog is the first Disney animation to feature a clearly black lead character but that'll hardly be an issue for audiences when presented with such an enjoyable piece of entertainment. Set in 20s New Orleans, which provides an ideal backdrop for Randy Newman's excellent songs, the story centres on Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) a diligent, hard-working girl whose dream is to set up her own restaurant. A set of circumstances unfolds whereby European prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) becomes involved with a voodoo shadowman Doctor Facilier (Keith David) and is turned into a frog.

The storyline is pretty standard quest fare with the comic element provided by a jazz-loving alligator, Louis (an excellent Michael-Leon Wooley), who echoes the great Baloo from the classic The Jungle Book.

The animation is as good as you'd expect from directors with such a track record and the whole package adds up to good old-fashioned Disney fare. And there's nothing wrong with that. HHHHI

(comedy drama. Starring Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Long, Jean Smart, Ray Liotta. Directed by Miguel Arteta. cert 15A)

Watching this knowingly quirky indie comedy-drama you wonder how many times Michael Cera can play the same character before audiences shrug: "Not again!" and stop turning up. We've seen Cera's gawky nerd in Juno, Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist, Superbad and Paper Heart -- not to mention the TV series Arrested Development. This adaptation of CD Payne's novel is certainly the one where this reviewer cries: "Enough."

Cera plays Nick Twisp, a -- surprise! -- bit of a wimpy nerd who fixates on Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), despite the fact that she's out of his league. He persists in his pursuit of her, creating an alter ego of the fearless and reckless Francois Dillinger. Youth in Revolt has its moments but the problem is that we've seen them all before and in better movies. HHIII - GB


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