The King and I (1999 animated version)
Directed by Richard Rich
Starring Miranda Richardson, Martin Vidnovic, Ian Richardson, Adam Wylie, Darrell Hammond, Allen D. Hong, Armi Arabe
Released on March 19, 1999
Running time: 1h 30m
Genre: Musical, Fantasy, Kids & Family
(After I wrote this review, I made a deal with my mother that if I showed her this terrible remake, she would show me the original The King and I. My mother thought that the remake was terrible. I thought that the original was a mixed bag. I definitely liked it, but it was completely joyless compared to The Sound of Music, which is one of my favorite films. Well, it’s not my favorite, but it’s in the top twenty.)
As much as I appreciate the Living Scriptures movies for making Book of Mormon stories kid-friendly, I detest them for their incredibly low quality and inability to tell a good story or have any sort of decent acting. Of course, with each of the Living Scriptures movies, those of us who have read The Book of Mormon know that each of the stories is already written, so this wasn’t an issue with us Mormons. But for non-Mormons, the Living Scriptures are little more than inane babble.
Such is the case with The King and I, with both it and the Living Scriptures movies sharing the same director: fellow Mormon Richard Rich.
Dang it, Mr. Rich! I want to believe that Mormons are competent in the realm of cinema! The only good movie Richard Rich has on his resume is The Fox and the Hound, which was actually decent!
Unfortunately, it is apparent that Rich played his trump card too early, as he gave us The Black Cauldron, The Swan Princess, and The Trumpet of the Swan.
While this is indeed an adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, it is an incredibly loose adaptation.
This becomes apparent right from the get-go.
Anna Leonowens (Miranda Richardson) is on a ship trip to Siam to teach Siamese king Mongkut’s children (from history, it was 82) (I think there’s only one scene in the entire movie in which she actually tries to teach) with her son Louis (Adam Wylie) and his monkey sidekick Moochie. And already I don’t care. En route, they encounter a dragon. A dragon! This dragon is a magical spell cast by our villain named Kralahome (Ian Richardson), an evil wizard who apparently is so evil that rats jump out of his shadow. Wow. Kralahome plans to use Anna to dethrone King Mongkut (we never learn the king’s name in this movie, but I’ll refer to history, and utilize the king’s name, Mongkut).
You know, Kralahome, if you want Anna for your plan, why are you trying to at the least scare her away, and at the most kill her? You didn’t think this through, did you?
Believe it or not, this dragon attack is actually our transition into the song “I Whistle a Happy Tune”. Uh, Anna? Are you sure that you should be singing when there’s a dragon attacking? And, even stranger, this whistling actually defeats the dragon once Anna gets everyone on board the ship to whistle. What the heck?
Anna and Louis arrive at Siam, and for the next hour, plot and character take a backseat to comic relief. This mostly involves Moochie (who apparently knows how to shoot spitwads) getting the better of Kralahome’s sidekick, Master Little (Darrell Hammond), who apparently wears polka-dotted underwear, loses teeth as a running gag, came up with the game of charades, and is the most racist interpretation of any ethnicity until Mudflap and Skids from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And I hate that monkey. By the way, Moochie and Master Little never appeared in the R&H musical, as I’m sure you know.
Anna arrives at the king’s court and the story unfolds from there.
King Mongkut (Martin Vidnovic) and all other Siamese characters, except for Kralahome, undergo the expected writing cliché of speaking in very broken English. When we see American actors voicing these Siamese characters, the gimmick falls flat, and gets annoying really quick.
CHULALONGKORN: But royal palace is center of whole universe!
There is a running gag involving the royal family trying to look up Anna’s dress. It’s not an effective running gag! Jeez! But no, fans of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, I know why this happens – one or more of Mongkut’s children think that Anna is wearing a tent. And in the actual Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, the first time that this happened was actually a bit funny. But here, it’s just awkward.
In the R&H musical, the female servants around the palace were obviously Mongkut’s wives. In the 1999 animated version, it’s ambiguous. Despite that, it’s obvious that Mongkut is screwing them. One more thing: this king WISHES he was acting god Yul Brynner, the original Mongkut. In one scene, after Mongkut learns that a letter has been sent to Sir Edward or Edmund Ramsey labeling him as a barbarian, this happens.
ANNA: But it’s a lie!
MONGKUT: A FALSE lie!
Brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department ™.
Mongkut is facepalmingly egotistical. In an attempt to prove that he’s not a barbaric barbarian, he asks Anna to guess what he will do to do so. Anna “guesses” that he will host a banquet and, afterward, a ball. And then Mongkut lightly scolds her for her not thinking of that. Wow.
Mongkut has (GUESS WHAT?!) his own sidekick! An admittedly awesome panther. Seriously. I want a panther like that! The panther, in one scene, high-fives and fistbumps Mongkut! That’s so cool! I know that that never happened in the R&H musical, but still!
Mongkut wants Anna to teach his children, but I feel that they would be just fine learning from their own father! They have better science than we do! Mongkut has not only invented a freaking hot air balloon, but he has written a goshawfully long history of the royal family! Jeez, that’s three of the four core subjects knocked out right there! Reading and writing, science, and history!
Mongkut, let it be known that I have nothing against Buddhism. But when did Buddhism involve worshipping Buddha as God? And why does that make Anna’s Christianity make her unworthy of Buddha’s help?
Anna is also a strange and interesting character. She’s a cardboard cutout who acts nice and charming simple for the sake of doing so. She even has to get another chick to dub her singing voice in “Hello, Young Lovers”, “Getting to Know You”, “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”, and “Shall We Dance?”. The fact that what happens during “Getting to Know You” does not involve getting to know anyone is one thing. But what happens during “Shall We Dance?” is quite another. This scene precedes the banquet. She tells Mongkut about the experience of attending a ball when some sort of hallucination, taking the form of a scary demon of hell some guy, dances with her as she sings “Shall We Dance?” Not only is Anna schizophrenic, but Mongkut is just standing there, watching her, acting like this is totally okay. Wow.
Now we come to our villain, Kralahome. What a crappy name. It sounds like you hiccup while trying to yodel. Though he is Siamese, he is played by a Brit. Wow. Throughout this movie, he passes himself off as an evil wizard, yet his spells are undone by STUPID things. The previously mentioned dragon is undone by whistling. In one scene when Mongkut prays to Buddha, Kralahome animates five statues to make them kill Mongkut, but the panther roars at them and they are defeated. Wow. Imagine if Kralahome sent King Ghidorah to destroy a big city and somebody sneezed, summoning Godzilla to fight him off. Kralahome briefly becomes comic relief when he is swatted twice on the butt by the panther’s tail.
KRALAHOME: I HATE PETS!
Well, eff you too!
Is Kralahome gay? Because in one scene, he nearly enters bad touch territory with Mongkut.
Once in one scene and twice in another scene, he magically changes clothes. Wow. And his eventual defeat is a freaking load.
KRALAHOME: I HATE happy endings!
And now we come to the forced romance between Prince Chulalongkorn and the Burmese servant girl Tuptim…who I’m just now realizing was never addressed as Tuptim until the climax. Oh, and there’s ANOTHER sidekick – a young elephant which Tuptim names Tuskar. Tuskar not only allies himself with Moochie, but he serves as the film’s anti-poaching-for-ivory statement. Whenever Tuskar trumpets, it sounds like my dog’s squeaky toy. Wow. But enough about Tuskar. Chulalongkorn and Tuptim met out of nowhere, share very little chemistry, and spend two scenes together before making out, and share the song “I Have Dreamed”. “I have dreamed / That your arms are lovely…” And we’re expected to feel for them?
The animation is subpar, to say the least. Its animation is slightly better than Living Scriptures. What is with Chulalongkorn’s awkward gait? Is the palace floor really that smooth? How did the chain of the royal pendant go through Chulalongkorn’s collar? How did Kralahome magically change clothes three times? Why is one of the rivers orange? When Kralahome went up to the tower to take down Mongkut’s hot air balloon, he didn’t even lock the gate. He sort of just tapped the key against the lock.
In one scene in which Master Little shows Louis the armory, Master Little makes several attempts to kill Louis, all of which are thwarted by Moochie. I have two things to say about this scene. One: why did Master Little list his vowels while daggers were being thrown at him by a machine? Two: do they not teach gun – sorry, crossbow – safety in Siam? The NRA exists for a reason!
Uh…the acting and singing was good?
Overall, this would have been just a below average animated kids film. But this movie becomes much worse when compared to the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. This adaptation, instead of sticking to its already historically debatable story, has superficial characters, a forced love story, and cuddly animals. And a complete lack of wit and intelligence.
The King and I is a failed and utterly pointless attempt to make a debatably kid-friendly story out of an already debatably kid-friendly story.
However, I cannot blame this 1999 bomb. I cannot blame Rodgers and Hammerstein. I cannot blame Anna and the King of Siam. I can indeed blame The English Governess in the Siamese Court. But, after reconsidering, I’m not so sure I can even blame that. While its historical accuracy is still questioned to this day, it might be true from an English governess’s point of view. Mongkut the King of Siam is almost certainly true from Siam’s point of view. They could both be true. They could both be false. I cannot side with either, but both sides can agree that the 1999 train wreck The King and I is terrible.
Richard Rich WISHES he was Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Final Verdict: 1 out of 5 stars.