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(1999) (voices of Miranda Richardson, Martin Vidnovic) (G)

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Animated Musical: The behavior and beliefs of a headstrong British schoolteacher and a stubborn, but inquisitive Siamese monarch clash as she sets out to teach his children the ways of the West in this animated version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical.
British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (voice of Miranda Richardson, singing by Christiane Noll), has arrived in the kingdom of Siam in 1863 with her 10-year-old son Louis (voice of Adam Wylie) and his pet monkey, Moonshee, to teach the Royal children Western ideas and philosophies upon such a request by the King (voice of Martin Vidnovic).

A stubborn, but ever inquisitive ruler, the King, who's often accompanied by Rama, his faithful blank panther, is torn between wishing to uphold centuries of tradition and knowing that his country must become as modern and civilized as those in the West. As such, he often has clashes with the headstrong Anna who won't kowtow to his many demands and practices, and who's upset that he won't honor his promise to let her have her own house outside the palace walls.

Nonetheless, the King has greater problems, some of which he's aware, others that he's not. It seems that his son, Prince Chululongkorn (voice of Alan Hong, singing by David Burnham) has fallen for Tuptim (voice of Armi Arabe, singing voice by Tracy Venner Warren), a young and beautiful servant woman who was offered to the King as a gift from another country. Since only the King has the final say in whom his children will marry and a relationship with a servant is explicitly forbidden, this immediately creates a conflict between him and the Crown Prince.

An even bigger problem, however, concerns his prime minister and royal astrologer, the Kralahome (voice of Ian Richardson), who, with the aide of his bumbling, rotund assistant Master Little (voice of Darrell Hammond), wishes to have him dethroned. Plotting to use Chululongkorn, Anna and other means to convince the British, who have the power to remove the King, that he's a barbarian, the two villains set out to accomplish their goal.

Younger kids who like animated musicals probably will.
For not containing material that would warrant a higher rating.
  • While it's questionable how much of an effect animated characters have on children regarding role model status, here goes:
  • THE KING plays a stubborn, but inquisitive monarch who wishes to uphold centuries of tradition while bringing his country up to par with other civilized nations. As such, he's torn between behaving like an omnipotent ruler and a man of science and technology.
  • ANNA plays a headstrong schoolteacher who wants to teach the Royal children, but is reluctant to kowtow to the King's "old school" practices and behavior.
  • CHULULONGKORN plays the Crown Prince who falls for a servant woman and wishes to marry her, despite his father's rules against that.
  • THE KRALAHOME plays a wicked sorcerer who wishes to dethrone the king by any means possible so that he can become the monarch.


    OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
    Loosely fashioned from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical and movie -- which itself was based on the 1946 film "Anna and King of Siam" that was adapted from Margaret Landon's book about the real life Anna Leonowens -- the beloved tale of a confidant school teacher and a stubborn monarch comes to life once again in Warner Bros. animated release of "The King and I."

    With the 1956 Deborah Kerr/Yul Brynner version being loved and well known by millions (it also received nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, winning five) the question that begs to be asked is why animate this classic film and in doing so, alter it by adding new characters and songs while eliminating or restaging some of the old favorites.

    The answer of course, is pure economics. While the theatrical revenue from kid based animated fare has been waning since the glory days of Disney's "The Lion King," the home video market is still incredibly strong and there's still "gold to be found in them 'thar videocassettes."

    By using the title of a classic, well-known musical that parents will recognize and that may possibly motivate them into taking the family to the theater, and by injecting a villainous character, his comedic sidekick and some cute animals to entertain the kids, the filmmakers hope they'll strike that lucrative goldmine. While the strategy is somewhat reasonably sound on a financial basis, the end artistic result is questionable.

    That's because this is one of those films that's hard to judge regarding its artistic merits. Purists will cringe at the thought of the classic being massively revamped and given something of the lowest common denominator treatment for its target audience.

    Those kids, however, who were weaned on what's become the animated standard set forth by all of those similarly constructed Disney films, will probably enjoy this one just as much. They certainly won't know of the original picture, won't care about the how's or why's of its alterations, and probably won't mind the often subpar animation found in this one. Those problems, however, will affect how adults will receive this picture, and I'll proceed with the review from that standpoint.

    The story, for those familiar with the Kerr/Brynner version, has substantially been altered. While some scenes and songs have been eliminated or substantially restaged, other new scenes -- such as an opening high seas sequence showing Anna and her son en route to Siam as well as the entire ending -- have been added.

    To the film's benefit, the musical's more popular numbers, including "Getting to Know You" and "Shall We Dance," are still present and the film soars while they play. The newer songs, however, courtesy of music supervisor William Kidd, are okay, but clearly pale in comparison to the originals.

    Director Richard Rich ("The Fox and the Hound," "The Black Cauldron") and screenwriters Peter Bakalian and Jacqueline Feather & David Seidler (who collaborated on "The Quest for Camelot") have also taken it upon themselves to turn the story into something resembling what's become the standard animated film setup. That means it now includes the obligatory scheming villain, his comedic sidekick, and some cute supplemental animals, including a mischievous monkey that more than closely resembles Abu from "Aladdin."

    The debate about whether altering this film is appropriate or not could go on forever, with the filmmakers' defense probably being that without such additional characters kids most likely wouldn't be as receptive to it. The truth be told, whenever those character weren't on the screen and a musical number wasn't playing, the kids at our screening did collectively get rather restless.

    Few will probably argue about the film's animation, however, as most of it's substantially below the quality found in the latest Disney films or the likes of Fox's "Anastasia." Although at times it's okay and passable, at others it's noticeably bad.

    General landscape shots often look incredibly flat and "cartoonish" (as compared to recent efforts to strive for more realism) and certain characters occasionally look very roughly drawn. While the overall effect is better than typical Saturday morning TV fare, the animation just doesn't match the amazing visuals that audiences have grown accustomed to in films delivered by the likes of Disney.

    Although the film's not horrible and manages to entertain its target audience, the subpar animation and the filmmaker's roughshod treatment of the well-known material may not sit well with adults who remember and/or love the original. While the inclusion of the additional characters and animals make the film more accessible to kids and take the basic elements of the story in a new direction, the end result doesn't necessarily prove that's a good thing.

    Even so, the remnants of the original -- and in particular the wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers -- mostly make up for the rest of the way the story's been treated, and whenever they play the film soars beyond its problems. With animated adaptions of other Broadway hit musicals hanging in the balance, the success or failure of this film will determine whether kiddie versions of the likes of "South Pacific," "Oklahoma" and other classics ever get made -- a thought that should send shudders through the hearts of film purists worldwide.

    Although this film should entertain the little ones -- with the side benefit of introducing them to the basic story and music of the original -- and perhaps leading them into wanting to see that film -- this animated adaption is clearly an example of too much artistic license being given to the filmmakers. As such, we give "The King and I" a 4.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this G-rated film. Like most other current animated films, this one contains several scenes, which involve menacing creatures and/or perilous moments, that may frighten or be unsettling to kids, all dependent, of course, on their age, level of maturity and tolerance for such material.

    Some menacing violence also occurs, as well as the standard, more slapstick style material where the comedic sidekick gets banged, hit, etc... and eventually has all of the teeth knocked from his mouth. The villain and his sidekick obviously have bad attitudes, and some kids may not understand the King's ways and rules (as the movie is set in 1863 Siam).

    Since this is the type of film that's aimed at very young kids -- and the fact that they'll probably want to see it -- you may want to take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for them.

  • None.
  • The Crown Prince has a bit of a bloody nose after Louis accidently hits him.
  • We see the Kralahome shoveling elephant dung into which he later falls.
  • The Kralahome obviously has both for plotting to overthrow the King and doing everything in his power to make sure that happens (including a lie-filled letter to the British about the King being a tyrant).
  • We learn that another nation has sent Tuptim to the King as a gift.
  • The King's stance on his servants and his country's non-Royal people show some of both as he sees them below himself and his family (although the film is set in a different land and time where/when this was accepted as the norm). He also refuses to allow his son to pick out his own wife, he tells people what to do and when to do it and refuses to honor his promise to Anna about giving her a house outside the palace. He also orders Tuptim to be whipped (for causing the Crown Prince to fall for her -- but this never happens).
  • Some viewers may take offense at the Asian stereotype as portrayed by the short and chubby Master Little.
  • Depending on a child's age, level of maturity and tolerance for such animated material, the following may or may not be suspenseful/scary to them.
  • During a bad storm at sea, Louis tries to save Moonshee who's hanging onto the side of their ship. As the waves crash over them, the monkey falls into the water, Louis grabs him and the two are pulled to safety. Moments after that, however, the Kralahome creates the illusion of a fierce, fire-breathing dragon (as well as some smaller, but still menacing snakes) that threaten Anna, Louis and the crew (but are dispatched once she breaks into a song).
  • The King's guards try to hit Moonshee with their swords upon first seeing him scamper across the floor.
  • During a musical number where the King's back is turned to them, several large statues come to life and slowly, but menacingly begin creeping toward him while Rama tries to ward them off.
  • Upset that his son has fallen for a servant woman and disobeyed his orders, the King commands that she be whipped. We then see him standing over her prepared to do so, but he finds that he cannot.
  • As the guards come after them, the Crown Prince, Tuptim and Louis find themselves briefly hanging from a roof.
  • In the jungle, the above three encounter menacing looking snakes (one of which nearly bites Moonshee), a huge spider comes after them, as then does a tiger.
  • The Crown Prince crosses a dilapidated bridge and as Tuptim follows, she falls through it and into the raging river below and he jumps in trying to rescue her. The King then rescues both of them (barely grabbing the woman at the last moment).
  • The Kralahome then fires several large fireworks rockets at the King's hot air balloon, striking it twice and causing those onboard to jump to their safety. The King crashes, however, and later appears to be dead and other characters react as if he is (which may be unsettling to kids), but of course he's okay.
  • Swords: Used by the King's guards as they attempt to strike Moonshee upon first seeing him.
  • Swords/Spears/Knives/Crossbows/Ball & Chain, etc...: Seen in an armament room, with Master Little using some while trying to injure/kill Louis and that boy inadvertently nearly hitting Master Little with some of them.
  • Whip: Nearly used by the King on Tuptim as punishment, but he finds that he cannot do that.
  • Phrase: "Idiot."
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful music (some of it action-oriented) occurs during the film.
  • During a song, the King sings that he has more than one wife.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Anna worries about her son in a few scenes.
  • Ancient monarchies and how people were treated differently then (with women given as "gifts," parents picking out spouses for their children, that the King has more than one wife -- briefly mentioned here -- etc...).
  • Buddha -- the god that the King and his people worship.
  • The illusions of a fierce dragon and some smaller serpents threaten Anna, Louis and the crew of the ship on which they're traveling.
  • The Kralahome accidently hits Master Little in the head, knocking out several of his teeth, and Moonshee then does the same.
  • The King's guards try to hit Moonshee with their swords upon first seeing him scamper across the floor.
  • Some slapstick style material occurs such as Moonshee banging his head against a closed door after whizzing around on a deflating balloon, Master Little running into a door (and more teeth coming out), Master Little getting hit with the blunt end of spear, a shield hitting Master Little on the head, falling debris also hitting him on the head, etc...
  • In the palace's armament room, Louis nearly accidently shoots Master Little with a crossbow, some knives nearly impale Master Little, and Master Little tries to come after Louis with a ball & chain weapon but he ends up hitting himself on the head with it.
  • Rama purposefully whacks the Kralahome with his tail.
  • The Kralahome bangs Master Little on the head.
  • The Crown Prince and another man practice kickboxing, and when Louis tries to show that he can do it, he accidently hits the Crown Prince on the face, causing a slight bloody nose.
  • A baby elephant tosses Master Little against a tree and later that elephant and Moonshee hit Master Little with mangos that they throw at him.
  • The Crown Prince hits some guards so that he and Tuptim can escape.
  • The Kralahome fires several fireworks rockets at the King, and knocks him and his hot air balloon from the sky.
  • The Kralahome kicks Master Little, who then jumps up and down on the Kralahome.

  • Reviewed March 13, 1999 / Posted March 19, 1999

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