Because "Anna and the King" stands on its own remarkably well, it may be unfair to begin this review with a comparison to "The King and I," the most famous film adapted from the same source material. But what I found most striking about the elegant, intelligent remake is how acutely aware it made me of the insulting Euro-centricity of its predecessors.
In the same story told in 1946 ("Anna and the King of Siam"), 1956 (from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical) and 1999 (that dreadful cartoon version), widowed English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens has always been portrayed as a much wiser, civilized woman who teaches the elaborate but backwards Asian monarch to think like a European, to waltz like a European and shapes his diplomatic policy by whispering in his ear.
The prudent but powerful screenplay for this non-musical, epic remake -- directed by Andy Tennant, who so successfully reinvented Cinderella in "Ever After" -- puts this Anna (played by Jodie Foster) and this King (Chow Yun-Fat) on very equal footing, making their relationship far more combative and compelling.
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