King And I

"Bad"

King And I Review


Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't kids like the "The King and I"the way it was? All the kids I know do. I did when I was a kid. So whydid Warner Bros. feel it was necessary to drastically dumb it down andgive it a shopworn formulaic re-write when they created this new, animatedversion of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic?

"The King and I" seemed like a natural for animation-- a vivid, colorful setting, great role model leads, plenty of lessonsto learn without it feeling like Sunday school -- but animator RichardRich practically threw that all away in favor of casting the Kralahome,the king's traditionalist prime minister, as a sneering and supernaturalnefarian bent on dethroning his shiny-headed majesty.

He's Scar from "The Lion King." He's Rasputinfrom "Anastasia"(who was likewise recast in a stock baddie mold). He's a generic cartoonantagonist with a half-witted henchman for comic relief, and he's the bestexample of how this movie takes a perfectly good story and turns it intoa trite and tiresome tome.

The first scene sets the tone for fixing "The Kingand I" where it wasn't broken. The movie opens in rough seas onboardthe steam ship bringing Victorian English school teacher Anna Leonowensto Siam where she is to instruct the king's children in math, science andWestern customs. This scene serves only to introduce her allegedly adorable,meddling son and his allegedly adorable monkey, the first of many requisiteanimal sidekicks shoehorned into a paint-by-numbers, Disney-style outline.

It's ironic that Rich chose to burn screen time this way,because at 80 minutes -- nearly an hour shorter than the 1956 live-actionfilm -- the movie has to rush through many important scenes as it is.

The song "Hello Young Lovers" comes about sevenminutes into movie. The King has only eight kids, taking a big chunk outof the introduction scene. The "Getting to Know You" number includesa Kabuki passage, allowing them to bypass the socially questionable "UncleTom's Cabin" scene later in the film.

To save time on subplot, Tuptim, the slave girl, fallsin love with the crown prince (a 20-something here instead of a 12-year-oldas written by Hammerstein), instead of being separated from her lover whenshe is given to the king as a gift.

What's worse, "Shall We Dance," the most magicaland memorable moment between Anna and the King, is broken up into two scenes,half an hour apart, ruining the rhythm of their relationship and deludingwhat little romantic tension there was between them in this pallid imitator.

Anna is sung by Christiane Noll and voiced by Miranda Richardson,a great actress who doesn't seem to put much heart into this portrayal.The King (Martin Vidnovic speaking and singing) isn't much better. He'sforced to rush through his character's trademark "Etcetera, etcetera,etcetera!" bits and in his hands the honorable monarch comes acrossnot like someone who occasionally struggles with English, but more likehe can't form a coherent sentence.

In fact, the only character with a modicum of real personalityis the Kralahome's pudgy henchman (Daryl Hammond), who keeps getting histeeth knocked out through the course of the story.

Rich, who directed "The Swan Princess" movies,"Black Cauldron" and "The Fox and the Hound," reallystarts to take liberties toward the end, when he has the King use a hotair balloon to rescue Tuptim from going over a waterfall, only to be shotdown by the Kralahome with huge firecrackers.

I'm not making this up.

To top it all off, the animation is pretty scanty by today'sstandards. The backgrounds are as flat as the characters' personalitiesand the occasional influx of computerized components couldn't be more outof place. The steamships look like they're made from Legos.

I often root for the studios now taking on Disney for thecartoon crown, hoping that they'll feel obligated to become more creativeand break out of the formulaic dungeon that has dogged American featureanimation all these years. But I give up. If the challengers can't stopthemselves from slaughtering something that lends itself to animation aswell as "The King and I," there's no hope.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. I saw thismovie with four kids, ages 4 to 14. All of them said they prefer the YulBrynner, Deborah Kerr version.



King And I

Facts and Figures

Run time: 133 mins

In Theaters: Friday 29th June 1956

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Merian C. Cooper as Self, as Narrator

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