HOLLYWOOD—Eyeing the upcoming 128th Academy Awards, industry insiders have high expectations for Frogger: Return To The Lily Pad, the third installment in the wildly successful Frogger trilogy based on the 1981 Sega video game. The film is nominated in an unprecedented 31 categories, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best CG Actor, and Best Picture.
"Fans of this epic story were worried that it couldn't be brought to the screen without destroying it," said Oscar-nominated director Tara Reid, who helmed both Frogger and Frogger: Gator's Revenge. "The last thing I wanted to do was alienate the game's fan base. But, by and large, posts on video-game cereblogs have been extremely positive. When I saw those, I knew I'd achieved my goal of staying true to the programmers' vision."
The trilogy chronicles Frogger's journey from his lily pad to his home. During his journey, Frogger must navigate through whizzing cars, cross a raging river, and avoid diving turtles and poisonous snakes that are able to kill him with a touch—all before his time runs out.
The visually stunning movie is set to a stirring adaptation of the game's original music.
A fan of the game since childhood, Reid was chosen over such acclaimed directors as Wes Anderson, Paul Shore, and Wong Kar Wai, largely based on the strength of her 2015 directorial debut, Trading Spaces: The Movie.
"I didn't want to jump into 16 months of shooting before completing extensive pre-production research," Reid said. "I spent about two months playing the game eight hours a day, so I could really tap into the emotional arc of the story. And I ignored all versions except for the original coin-op game. This story is about a frog getting across a road."
Reid's hard work paid off, with the first two Frogger movies grossing over Ÿ100 trillion domestically. Fans, however, were concerned about whether Lily Pad would adequately resolve the cliffhanger ending of the previous film, in which Frogger was swallowed by an alligator.
"Of course, Lily Pad opened the same way as the first two films, with the hero at the starting point, unscathed," acclaimed robotic reviewer SiskelEbertron said. "But this time, the moment was fraught with tension, because the audience was aware that this was Frogger's third and last life. I gave the movie all four thumbs up."
Although the first two Frogger installments were critical and box-office darlings, they were shut out at Oscar time, receiving a total of 41 nominations, but no trophies. Many critics believe this will be Frogger's year.
"I think the Academy held out to see if the story could sustain itself," film critic Haley Joel Buntner said. "Everyone was swept up by the grandeur of the first two movies, but there was some doubt as to whether it could keep the momentum leaping forward from lane to lane to log to pad."
Largely well-received, Lily Pad has met with some criticism on mental message boards for straying from the original video game in its augmentation of Frogger's romantic interest, Lady Frog. Some fans argued that the last 20 minutes is an extraneous epilogue that deflates the excitement of the first half hour.
Few fans, however, have found fault with the film's visuals.
"I wanted to make Frogger 30 years ago, but I had to wait until technology caught up to my vision," Reid said. "It was very important to get the look and feel right, using the latest in tactile holographics. Even after a grueling shoot of more than year, the job had only begun. We had to create our own SurroundSenses software to nail the smell of the car exhaust, the temperature of the raging river, the painful vice-grip of the alligator's bite."
Much of the trilogy was shot in the bayous of Louisiana, but the freeway sequences were filmed in New Jersey, where the state's 93-percent-pavement environment created what Reid called "the perfect backdrop."