Good concept, poorly executed.
As somebody who had not heard any of this before, it became a curious phenomenon to sit and watch a film and slowly have the realities begin to click into place.
The movie turns out to be a little better than the average. Starting from a romantic formula often seen in the cinema, it ends in the most predictable (and somewhat bland) way.
Anna and the King (1999): Dir: Andy Tennant / Cast: Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton, Randall Duk Kim: Rehash of The King and I right down to its tiresome relationship. Someone must have gotten bored and suggested, "Let us make the umpteenth version of The King and I, only give it a different title in an attempt to fool people into thinking that we came up with someone original!" Jodie Foster plays a school teacher named Anna who is assigned to teach the King's children. Chow Yun-Fat plays the King in a departure from his action roles. Structure is so boring that cable channels should replace it with beer commercials before the forgiving climax where Anna tells the King to remove the stick from his ass. Director Andy Tennant does his best. He previously made Ever After: A Cinderella Story as well as the dreary It Takes Two, which in itself is a rehash of The Parent Trap. Foster is one of the most dependable actresses in the business but she is playing a role so xeroxed that all she can do is recite what has been done before. Yun-Fat is known as an action star but here he plays his most boring role. Supporting actors play host to a bunch of stereotypes. Also with Bai Ling and Tom Felton who also get to weigh in on every other stereotype presented here. Excellent art direction within a film that changes nothing but its title. Score: 2 / 10
It's 1862. Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster) is an English widow school teacher who travels to Siam with her son Louis (Tom Felton). She is to teach English to the children of King Mongkut (Chow Yun-Fat). Mongkut is trying to maintain his country's independence while modernizing amid colonial pressures. He faces deceit from within and a force from Burma. She faces internal palace politics and cultural differences.This is beautifully shot. The acting is mostly fine. Jodie is a bit too hard. Chow Yun-Fat is bemused. They have little chemistry together. The movie is a bit overly long with a few too many side stories. It needs to decide to concentrate on the romance or the military intrigue. The movie seems to want it all and struggles because of it.
The main reason why I went and saw this movie is because Chow-Yun-Fat was one of the main actors. It seems that Fat is making a name for himself in Hollywood and this is a pretty major role that he has scored, but then in his last two Hollywood movies, The Corrupter and the Replacement Killers, he has taken the lead role as well. He may have done others, but I think that before the Replacement Killers, his only movies were Hong Kong movies, but for those movies he does have a very impressive resume (including The Killer - a masterpiece of all movies). This movie is about the clash of cultures. It is based on the old musical The King and I, but the problem there was that I do not think that Yul Brynner was Asian. Fat is and as such suited the role much better, but I don't think many people were too concerned with the nationality of the main character of the King and I. A teacher comes to Siam as the tutor for the king's son. The teacher is actually quite headstrong, and being British, believes that she is not subordinate to anybody. She shows the king the proper respect, if he was a European King, but refuses to go the way of the natives of the land. Not only that, but she also attempts to enforce British ideals onto the culture, especially in regards to slavery and polygamy. But then the King doesn't fully understand the concept of why one has only one wife in England. To him, the wife is to make sure that there is an heir on the throne, while the concubines are for his own personal pleasure. It is that reason that he could never really marry the teacher, even though they do develop a strong relationship. In essence he is already married, and through her traditions, she could not simply ignore that. The movie is focused around the relationship that develops between Anna and the King. Both of them are very headstrong people, the king goes without saying while, as I previously said, Anna is British and as such not willing to accept the superiority of an obviously non-European tradition. Still, both of them come to understand each other's traditions, though Anna changes less than the king, but she does come to see the human side of him. What happens, in essence, is that Siam remains independent, but changes enough to be acceptable to the European nations. It is still a very Eurocentric movie. It tries to say that nations have been allowed to develop on their own, but this is not really the case here. The next king has been influenced by European teachings and as such the changes that are made, are made because the Europeans have said so. In the end, Siam, though remaining independent, becomes another European puppet state.
The King and I was a great adaptation of the true story based on the lead female character's diaries, and then there's more realistic version from director Andy Tennant (Hitch). Basically, set in the 1890's, English school teacher Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster), with her son Louis (Harry Potter's Tom Felton), is summoned to the palace of Siam by King Mongkut (Crouching Tiger's Chow Yun-Fat) to teach his fifty-eight children. It takes quite a while for Anna and the King to get to used to each other, but she wins over the royal children, especially Princess Fa-Ying (Melissa Campbell), very easily. Throughout the story, Anna tries to help the King get the respect of the English, but instead a war is started, she tries to avoid a forbidden romance being found out, and she cannot be near him when he has someone executed. Obviously their hate is not all the way through, it is obvious they grow stronger feelings for each other, though you never see anything happen, you get the idea. Also starring Ling Bai as Tuptim, Syed Alwi as The Kralahome - Prime Minister, Randall Duk Kim as General Alak, Kay Siu Lim as Prince Chowfa, King Mongkut's Brother, Keith Chin as Prince Chulalongkorn, Mano Maniam as Leonowens' Indian Servant Moonshee and Geoffrey Palmer as Lord John Bradley. Foster sports an impeccable English accent, Yun-Fat is alright at being mostly sweet-natured with a little majestic attitude, if the film wasn't so long and political it might be a little better, so I much prefer and recommend The King and I. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Costume Design, and it was nominated the Golden Globes for Best Original Score for George Fenton and Best Original Song for "How Can I Not Love You". Okay!