The King & I (1999)

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The King & I (1999)
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Even Peter Griffin's take on the story was more faithful.
Genre: Fantasy

Musical

Directed By: Richard Rich
Written By: Oscar Hammerstein II
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Based On: Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon

The King and I by Richard Rodgers
Oscar Hammerstein II

Starring: Miranda Richardson
Martin Vidnovic
Christiane Noll
Photography: Color
Release Date: March 19, 1999
Runtime: 1h 27min
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $25 million
Box Office: $12 million


The King and I is a 1999 American animated musical film directed by Richard Rich and written by Peter Bakalian, Jacqueline Feather and David Seidler, loosely adapted from the Anna Leonowens story, and uses songs and some of the character names from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's stage musical of the same name.

The film was released theatrically in the United States on March 19, 1999 and grossed $12 million domestically on a $25 million budget.

Plot

Anna, an English schoolteacher, travels to the kingdom of Siam (Thailand) to teach children and finds her challenge with a stubborn king. But even as a wondrous friendship grows between Anna and the arrogant monarch, an evil sorcerer is conjuring up a plot to steal the throne.

Why It Doesn't Deserve the Throne

  1. Very poor grasp of the original source material. For example, the Kralahome was never a bad guy, he was simply an adviser to the King (then again, that was the case with all the other adaptations of the story). And while some good movies have done this before like Anastasia (making Rasputin into an evil wizard) and Pocahontas (by creating a romantic love story between Pocahontas and John Smith, especially with the former character aged up into a young woman instead of a child as in real events), both films worked because they still managed to be good movies overall in spite of the historical differences and felt more like new takes on the historical events than anything. The same cannot be said for this film.
    • Perhaps one of the worst examples of this is the fact that any mature elements from both the historical event, the play and the 1956 film adaptation are completely glossed over in favor of sugar-coated replacements.
      • While animated movies based on mature-themed source materials with dark and mature elements like Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame did tone done and sugarcoat most of the dark elements at times in order to make them appropriate for family audiences, it worked since some of the darker elements from their respective source material were still kept in the film and these elements have been handled with as much dignity and respect as possible. The same cannot be said for this film though, since this film takes this up to eleven and heavily sugarcoats all the darker elements of both the historical event, the play and the 1956 film adaptation to the point that it utterly disrespects these original source materials this film is based on.
  2. Very historically inaccurate, even by animated film standards. For example, in the beginning, there's a FRIGGIN' DRAGON!
  3. Some (but not all) of the characters are one-dimensional, uninteresting, and unlikable.
    • Kralahome is an unneeded villain who has unbelievably weak powers that are defeated by lame things like whistling which make him incredibly hard to be taken seriously or seen as a legitimate threat. And his plan is to, you guessed it, dethrone the King and rule Siam with his dark magic. He's also constantly changing his plans for how to usurp the throne from the King. And by the end, he didn't take any precautions necessary to make sure he is not caught in the act of murdering the monarch. Instead, he chooses to lock himself in the guard tower atop which he launches fireworks to shoot down the King's balloon, which ends with him quickly (and unsurprisingly) getting captured.
      • Speaking of which, he is nothing but a pathetic rip-off of Jafar from Disney's Aladdin and Scar from The Lion King.
    • Prince Chulalongkorn's only purpose in the film is to serve a pointless romance side plot with Tuptim that's also a knock-off of the one between Aladdin and Jasmine from Disney's Aladdin (one of the many things this movie steals from the Disney film), but with the roles of the characters reversed.
    • A huge amount of useless side characters like the King's panther, Tusker, Moonshee, Lewis, and Master Little who are not only completely scattered around the entirety of the film, but they serve absolutely zero purpose to the actual plot other than to be unfunny and unneeded comic reliefs (minus Lewis, but he's still useless to the story) and provide more slapstick in a film that's already coated with it.
  4. Lazy writing, which results in a cliche-filled story that completely deviates from it's source material.
  5. The film has logic that makes absolute zero sense, even by animated film standards. For example, the dragon Kralahome summons at the beginning of the film could be easily defeated by Anna, her son Lewis, and everyone else on her boat dancing and whistling during the musical number "I Whistle a Happy Tune".
  6. False advertising: On the theatrical release poster, it says "The all-new animated family spectacular", which is an outright lie.
  7. While the animation itself is pretty nice-looking, it still has countless errors. For example, there are several times where a character will barely interact with things or even be inanimate for a couple of seconds.
  8. Speaking of the animation, there's absolutely no lighting on the character animation.
  9. The songs, while most of them are fine on their own in writing and execution, in a similar vein to Quest for Camelot, more often than not are played over scenes that completely contradict the lyrics, resulting in misfitting musical numbers. For example, "Getting to Know You" or "A Puzzlement" are played over scenes that don't even show the characters singing them. Instead, their played over pointless slapstick (as will be later discussed in WIS# 11) involving the Buddha and Panther respectively. And others like "Shall We Dance?" or "I Whistle a Happy Tune" have the scenes where that they're played over completely and utterly contradict the lyrics by respectively showing Anna dancing with a ghost or defeating a dragon by singing (yes, that actually happened in the movie). And while this is technically an issue with the animation, it still ruins the songs by having them not coordinate with the animation and events the film is showing at the same time.
  10. The film barely focuses on the main characters. Instead, it shows more of their comedic sidekicks (previously mentioned in WIS# 4.3) who aren't interesting or well-developed either.
  11. Boring and pointless slapstick that takes up an enormous amount of the film itself, leaving less time for the actual story of Anna trying to teach the King of Siam's children and more time for pointless subplots involving the annoying supporting cast that have no impact on the entirety of the actual story and end up going absolutely nowhere.
  12. An overwhelming amount of pointless side plots that end up going nowhere, receive no expansion or focus, feel like the only reason their even in the film is for the sole purpose of making the plot more "interesting" (since the movie overall feels like it's basic plot isn't interesting enough and therefor tries to expand upon it using all the side plot and comedy, when that couldn't be further from the truth as both only succeed in delaying the genuinely interesting aspects of the film and actually diminishing the amount of aspects in the film's plot that make it interesting), and further distance the movie from the events/story it's based on.
  13. Again like Warner Bros.' Quest for Camelot, it feels like a copycat of the Disney Renaissance movies, especially Aladdin, rather than an adaption of the events/story it's based on.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Nice animation. While not Disney or Don Bluth levels of quality, it still has an overall pleasing art style and the CGI incorporated in blends in surprisingly well (something very rare for otherwise traditionally animated films that attempt to incorporate CGI in).
  2. The voice acting is decent, to say the least.
  3. Some of the songs, like "Getting to Know You" and "Shall We Dance?", are actually not bad.
  4. A few likable and interesting characters.
    • Anna, the protagonist, is a complex character who shows that even if she disagrees with the King's methods of ruling with his traditional beliefs, she still agrees to help him and his kids to to show them the proper ways of western culture.
    • The King himself, while he does show interest in using modern science to revolutionize the world, he still finds himself holding on to his beliefs that Siam must be ruled the old way. That being said, he sometimes shows a charismatic side that agrees with Anna.

Reception

The King & I received extremely negative reviews from both critics and audiences alike, criticizing it for it's pointless subplots, bland characters, cliched story, and lack of faith to it's source material. Rotten Tomatoes has an approval rating of 13% based on 24 reviews and an average rating of 3.51/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Charmless and shoddily animated, The King and I pales in comparison to its classic namesake in every way." Historian Thomas Hischak wrote that it was "surprising to think that the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization allowed it to be made ... children have enjoyed The King and I for five decades without relying on dancing dragons". Hischak, in his work The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television, says the film is "easily the worst treatment of any Rodgers and Hammerstein property". The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia says "whether or not one agrees about the 1956 film of The King and I being the best R&H movie, most would concede that [the] animated adaption is the worst". Roger Ebert gave it 2 stars out of 4 and felt that animated adaptations of musicals have potential but found the film rather dull.

Box Office

The film was a box office bomb. It took in $4,007,565 in its opening weekend, taking the #6 spot at the box office, but only managed to gross just under $12 million at the box office, and was overshadowed by the release of Doug's 1st Movie, which was released the following week.

Trivia

  • The estates of Rodgers and Hammerstein were so unhappy with the results, they have since forbidden any further animated adaptations of their works, much like Dr. Seuss on the future live-action adaptations of his works.
  • Martin Vidnovic, who voiced the King, expressed dissatisfaction with the film.
  • The film was made by Rankin/Bass, who are known for doing those classic stop-motion holiday specials.
  • This was the only animated film to be produced by Morgan Creek Entertainment.

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