The Frog Prince – 1986

You will notice that this review is put together from several of the best reviews from Imdb I just want to put credit where it’s due.

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Directed by Jackson Hunsicker this Children’s musical is based on Grimm’s fairy tale of The Frog-King. A young girl learns how to be a good friend and princess with the help of a “tall frog.”

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In the Kingdom of Tartonia, Zora (Aileen Quinn) lives a carefree life except for her older mean-spirited sister Henrietta (Helen Hunt).

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The King (Clive Revill) receives a letter from Baron Von Whobble that he’s coming to declare one of his two nieces Zora and Henrietta is going to be a true princess. After being ridiculed, Zora wishes for someone to talk to. The Frog Prince answers her wish.

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Aileen Quinn has a great big voice for a little girl as she already shown in Annie. Her singing is the best thing about this musical. There isn’t much else in this movie. The production value is pretty low. The sets are fairly fake. The dialog is pretty stiff. It feels more like a stage play. The direction, the staging, and the editing could definitely use a lot of help. The singing from the rest of the cast is reasonable but nothing great. The story is pretty thin. There is nothing here other than to see a slightly older Aileen Quinn singing her heart out and Helen Hunt playing the mean girl.

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Ranking the Cannon Movie Tale films, The Frog Prince is around top middle, with Hansel and Gretel being the best and The Emperor’s New Clothes being the worst.

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The Frog Prince does suffer from budget limitations. The photography is nice, but some scenes are a little too dimly lit, the castle interiors and garden are rather ordinary and almost grim, the costumes are cheap-looking with the sole exception of Zora’s blue dress at the end and Ribbit’s make-up is somewhat unintentionally creepy. The film also suffers from stretching a particularly slight story that generally too thin to adapt for a feature length 90 minutes, actually it does do a surprisingly decent job expanding it but the story does feel too thin and stretched at times, pacing sometimes drags and a few scenes go on longer than they need to. Some of the dialogue is also stiff, like a lot of the dialogue at the start until Ribbit is introduced and with Henrietta.

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However, as said it is nicely photographed, The Cannon Movie Tale films were low-budget in production values (particularly in the costumes) but it never showed in the photography. The Frog Prince has a charming, whimsical and magically orchestrated score, that also has a little tension in some of the latter half, and the songs are surprisingly very pleasant (Friendship and the Music Box Waltz being particularly good). Not all the dialogue works, but Ribbit does have some adorably funny lines and the emotional moments are moving without being too corny or cloying. The execution of the story is similarly flawed, but it makes a clear effort to make much of little and it shows in a charming and sometimes poignant Beauty and the Beast-like take on the story, and there is a very sweet and tender between Zora and Ribbit.

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Aileen Quinn is immensely appealing as Zora, a more subtle and sympathetic performance than in her still great star-making turn in the title role of Annie (which is still one of my personal favourites), her singing has also come on a long way, here it’s softer and more controlled and that she’s older might have a lot to do with it. Clive Revill is a funny, occasionally stern and towards the end kindly king, and Helen Hunt makes the most of her visually pretty but actually very mean older sister role. John Paragon steals the show though, bringing to Ribbit a masculine charm, a warm and witty sense of humour, affecting melancholy and remarkable athleticism (especially when we are first introduced to him).

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In conclusion, has flaws but a solid attempt at adapting the story.

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