Jun 29, 2014

Review: The King and I (1999)

Despite The King and I looking like any other animated kids movie, here I am feeling all uncultured. While doing my regular pre-watching info gathering on this film, I learned that it's based off of a stage musical by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II which in turn is based off of a novel called Anna and the King by Margaret Landon. We're not done yet.

Anna and the King traces its origins to the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, who was the governess to the children of the king of Siam during the early 1860's. We're definitely a long way from there with this 1999 animated flick and sadly, I haven't seen or read any prior work this film is based on.

I haven't even seen the 1999 film Anna and the King with Jodie Foster either. I felt a bit blind going in to watch this since I don't really know what things have been added or removed from the story. I'm familiar with some of the songs though popular culture and clearly it can be said that The King and I as a stage musical has been very successful throughout its history. I'd say that The King and I has a lot to live up to, even with my meager knowledge of the source material. 


Genre: animation, family, fantasy
Directed by: Richard Rich
Produced by: Peter Bakalian, Arthur Rankin Jr., James G. Robinson, etc.
Written by: Peter Bakalian, Jacqueline Feather, David Seidler, etc.
Music by: William Kidd
Running time: 88 minutes
Production company: Morgan Creek Productions, Rich Animation Studios, Rankin/Bass Productions, etc.
Distributed by: Warner Bros., Líder Films, Argentina Video Home, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $25,000,000
Box office: $11,993,021 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Miranda Richardson, Martin Vidnovic, Ian Richardson, Darrell Hammond, Allen D. Hong, Armi Arabe, Adam Wylie, Sean Smith, James Fujii, Kenny Baker, Ed Trotta, Tony Pope




It's 1862 and Anna Leonowens (Miranda Richardson) arrives by ship in Siam with her son (Adam Wylie). She is to teach the children of the king of Siam (Martin Vidnovic) who is attempting to rule less traditionally than his predecessors. Kralahome (Ian Richardson), the Prime Minister of Siam hatches a plan to get rid of the king and take over the throne by labeling him as a barbarian to the British and playing both sides. Also of importance is the romance that blossoms between the direct heir to the throne Chulalongkorn (Allen D. Hong) and a servant girl (Armi Arabe) which is completely forbidden according to tradition.


The number one quality of The King and I that jumps at me is just how dull it is. The songs in the film which I am assuming have been untouched from the musical are really its only draw. Some are better performed than others but everything around these songs is utterly devoid of any kind of magic or wonder. Everything is so by the books which is too bad because the quality songs deserve a better effort.

The animation of The King and I is not the worst I've ever seen and very far from the best. There are lots of colours but no charm. There are a couple of rare instances where CGI is used instead of traditional hand drawn animation and it looks terrible. I usually hate when this pairing technique is attempted because it hardly ever works and it doesn't here either.

Comedy mostly comes from Anna's son's monkey and Kralahome's evil sidekick, Master Little. Both deliver the expected comedic accidents that are par for the course. Master Little is irritatingly dimwitted and the running joke of him always losing one of his prized teeth gets old. Darrell Hammond, SNL regular until 2009 puts on his best Asian accent for the role which just seems strange beside his master who has a comically stereotypical evil English accent. The voice acting on a whole varies between awful to serviceable.

The ending for The King and I is sappy and is cursed by being too long. (Spoilers) With a story that feels scrubbed clean and smart animals who help the good guys to win the day, TKaI just feels like an attempt to appeal to children and call it a day. The love story that is meant to quietly bubble below the surface between the king and Anna is hardly there at all in this film which is shocking because it seems to me that it is one of the defining elements of this story. (End Spoilers) In Twitter language, I'd just say that you'll hardly be able to find a more bland and weak attempt at recreating a classic into a children's movie in The King and I.



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