The King and I (1999)
Directed by Richard Rich
Cast Voices: Miranda Richardson, Christiane Noll, Martin Vidnovic, Ian Richardson, Darrell Hammond, Allen D. Hong, David Burnham, Adam Wylie, Sean Smith.
1999 90 minutes
Rated: (no objectionable material).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 21, 1999.
In the last two weeks of filmgoing, not one, but two films have contained characteristics that only the worst director of all-time, Ed Wood, could be proud of. The recent "Wing Commander" turned out to be one of the very worst movies of the whole decade, while in the new animated film, "The King and I," a quality-butchering remake of the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, one sequence changes from day to night between shots. This foolish mistake might be at least a little understandable in a live-action picture, but keep in mind that this particular movie wasn't even filmed, but drawn!
In a children's adaptation that sticks to the bare minimum in the story department, there truthfully isn't much do discuss in the way of a premise, except that a 19th-century schoolteacher named Anna (voiced by Miranda Richardson) arrives at the kingdom of the stern King of Siam (Martin Vidnovic) to teach his eight children, while the King's evil brother, Kralahome (Ian Richardson), plots to destroy him, as well as his oldest son, so he can become the King and take over the palace.
To get a taste of how desperate for ideas "The King and I" actually is, take, for example, the ludicrous opening scene in which Kralahome creates a giant water serpent to cause Anna to shipwreck. Does Anna naturally shudder in fear? No, not at all. Why, she decides it would be a perfect time to sing the upbeat and delightful song, "I Whistle a Happy Tune!" Unfortunately, the film goes even further downhill from there, and the only element that kept it from becoming a thoroughly unbearable experience was the memorable, if one-dimensional, character of Anna, a head-strong woman who speaks up when she disagrees with things, and deeply believes in what is right and wrong. Amazingly, however, Anna disappears for long stretches of time to concentrate on the dull, predictable subplot involving the King's son and his blossoming romance with a kind-hearted servant whom he is forbidden to be with. Multiple awards for anyone who can guess what happens with this couple by the movie's end...
If animated films are expected to be money-makers, they've got to have at least something going for them, and obviously Warner Brothers doesn't have anything going for them. The animation itself is strictly amateurish and Saturday morning cartoonish; at several moments the songs are nearly drowned out by the loud, forgettable music score; and the overall story follows the basic slapdash formula of all animated films: a female protagonist; a male love interest who needs reforming; some cuddly animal sidekicks; and a dark, canniving villain that has magical powers, not to mention a clumsy, bumbling sidekick. Sigh. As the characters repeatedly say to the point of near-monotony throughout, etc., etc., etc.
©1999 by Dustin Putman