PROTESTS COME EARLY TO DISNEY'S PRINCESS

Almost two years before its hoped-for release of its first hand-drawn animated film produced under the supervision of Pixar's John Lasseter, Disney has already drawn fire for alleged racial and ethnic insensitivities that were detected in its original announcement of the film, according to Disney watcher Jim Hill. Since the original title, The Frog Princess, might be regarded as a slur on the French, the title has been changed to The Princess and the Frog. The main character, named Maddy -- who was to become Disney's first black princess -- has had her name changed to Tiana, since Maddy reportedly sounded too much like Mammy. She will no longer be seen as a chambermaid working for a rich, white spoiled Southern débutante. In a statement, Disney, which said that it ordinarily does not comment on its animated films in the early stages of production, observed: "The story takes place in the charming elegance and grandeur of New Orleans' fabled French Quarter during the Jazz Age. ... Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney's rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity."

CANADA MAY PASS LAW BANNING CAMCORDING IN THEATERS

Responding to growing complaints from Hollywood studios, the Canadian government is planning to introduce legislation within the next month that would making camcording movies in theaters illegal, the Canadian news agency CanWest News Service reported today (Friday). The report follows by days an announcement by Warner Bros. that it has canceled all preview screenings in the country out of concern over piracy. However, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist told today's Ottawa Citizen that he is doubtful about the movie industry's claims that Canada is a major source of bootleg product. "We've never had any sort of independent, verifiable data to support that," he said. In fact, Geist said, the notion that new laws against camcording will solve the problem "is completely undermined by the experience in the United States, where there are laws, but the U.S. is the largest source of camcorded movies."

SMOKE IN MOVIES -- GET AN "R"

In a rare alteration of its movie ratings system, the MPAA said on Thursday that the panel that assesses Hollywood movies will begin considering "depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context." Until now, the subjects that movie raters have primarily considered are violence, language, nudity, and drugs. In a statement, MPAA CEO Dan Glickman said, "There is broad awareness of smoking as a unique public health concern due to nicotine's highly addictive nature, and no parent wants their child to take up the habit. ... The appropriate response of the rating system is to give more information to parents on this issue."

MOVIE REVIEWS: 28 WEEKS LATER

The chilling zombie movie 28 Days Later from director Danny Boyle turned out to be an instant cult classic in 2002. The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, warns A.O. Scott in the New York Times, is "not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach." Nevertheless, he argues, it is "bracingly smart, both in its ideas and in its techniques." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News deems Later "an even happier surprise than the original" with "a stronger story line, equally fine performances, greater tension, enough gore to satisfy the most hard-core zombie fan, and a narrative pace that flings us from the opening scenes to the very last image." Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune agrees that the movie "exceeds its predecessor ... in every way." Several critics point to analogies to the war in Iraq, as British authorities are depicted trying to prevent their country from being overtaken by zombies. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post concludes his review by remarking, "Whether you agree with its politics or not, 28 Weeks Later is proof that summer movies don't have to be like an army of mindless zombies." And Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times comments, "The director's message is less overtly political than it is allegorical -- that chaos breeds chaos and that force only serves to amplify it." Which may be a political statement in its own right.

MOVIE REVIEWS: GEORGIA RULE

With Garry Marshall directing, Jane Fonda playing the role of an Idaho matriarch, and Lindsay Lohan and Felicity Huffman as her granddaughter and daughter, you'd probably expect a howling comedy when you pick up your tickets at the box office for Georgia Rule. But critics are cautioning moviegoers that the film is not what you'd expect. Kyle Smith in his review in the New York Post posts this warning: "Do not take your mom to Georgia Rule unless she's Roseanne Barr. You may expect a three-generational chick flick, but what you get is a child-rape comedy." Lael Loewenstein observes in the Los Angeles Times: "Weighted down by too much disturbing material to work as a glossy, lighthearted comedy, yet dappled with too many broad comic moments to stand as a serious film, Georgia Rule oscillates clumsily from shock to slapstick to schmaltz. The result of these big tonal swings is a cinematic strikeout." Peter Howell in the Toronto Star accuses Marshall of being "deaf to the dark tone of his film." "This movie is neither a standard weepie nor a comforting dramedy," writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. "It's an interesting, maddening mess -- not a terrible movie, and by no means a dull one." Ty Burr of the Boston Globe would obviously think that Scott is being too kind. He calls it "a bad idea dreadfully executed." But many critics wonder about Jane Fonda's recent choice of film projects. Writes Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "If, as Fonda has said, she's ready to return to acting, I wish she'd return to acting."

Brian B.