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Anna and the King

Released: 1999

Genre: Romance

Runtime: 2 hr 22 min

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Andy Tennant

Starring: Jodie Foster, Yun-Fat Chow, Ling Bai, Tom Felton, Syed Alwi, Randall Duk Kim, Kay Siu Lim

A film centers around of Anna Leonowens, who was an English schoolteacher in Siam, now Thailand, in the 19th century.

The fault does not lie with the actors.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

Exhilaration please, not exhaustion. Full of self-importance, directors this Christmas season have lost all sense of proportion. Movies seem to take an eternity for no discernable reason.

In his non-musical ANNA AND THE KING, rather than giving us something for our minds and our hearts, Andy Tennant gives us butt-numbing length as we watch what is admittedly an absolutely gorgeous picture. The cinematography (Caleb Deschanel), the sets (Ian Whittaker and Luciana Arrighi), the costumes (Jenny Beavan) and the music (George Fenton) are all absolutely dazzling. But with Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes's pedestrian script, there is little to engage us. The net result of such beauty, scored to lush orchestral music, is to literally put us to sleep as it did several men, women and children in my packed audience.

The fault does not lie with the actors. Jodie Foster, as Anna, and Chow Yun-Fat, as King Mongkut, do respectable jobs. Foster meticulously shows her carefully controlled anger, and Yun-Fat confidently moves with a graceful fluidity. The chemistry between them is never quite believable, but it really isn't their fault. The written material they have to work with is awkward, and Tennant's direction is languid. In a key scene, for example, in which blowing up a bridge quickly is the key to survival, Tennant has his actors move with a glacial pace.

We get the point that the Siamese in the picture do not speak proper English, and their butchered English syntax and semantics can be funny. But, after a while, this repetitive joke gets quite tiresome. Let them at least accidentally speak a few sentences of correct English occasionally.

So would songs have been an improvement? You bet! Anything to put some of the old magic back into the story. Visuals are important, but they aren't enough to carry a picture. ANNA AND THE KING needs something to make it compelling, and a few songs certainly wouldn't hurt.

ANNA AND THE KING runs way too long at 2:22. A large part of the film is in Thai with English subtitles. It is rated PG-13 for some intense violent sequences. Given the explicitness of the bloody caning and some of the other scenes, the film might have been more appropriately rated R. It would be acceptable for teenagers.