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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.09%
Worth A Look33.72%
Average: 19.77%
Pretty Bad: 22.09%
Total Crap: 2.33%

8 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Anna and the King
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat marking time."
2 stars

Halfway through 'Being John Malkovich,' when Catherine Keener looked into the eyes of John Malkovich and saw the soul of the woman she loved, she raised the curtain on a new, funky kind of screen romance. It's hard to regress from that to the conventional repressed romance of 'Anna and the King,' one more women's weepie in which we're supposed to sigh and honor the restraint of the two romantic leads as they spend two hours or more denying their feelings.

The best example of this sort of film in the '90s was The Remains of the Day; the many Hollywood variations since -- The Bridges of Madison County, The Horse Whisperer, and so on -- have done little to improve on it.

Three questions answered right away: Yes, Jodie Foster fakes a serviceable accent as Anna Leonowens, the widowed British schoolteacher who journeys to Siam with her young son. Yes, Chow Yun-Fat is quietly charismatic as King Mongkut, the monarch who hires Anna to teach his dozens of children. And yes, the film is an elegant bit of eye candy (cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who shot The Black Stallion, is a whiz at picture-postcard images). The movie is handsome and well-appointed, with lonely good moments scattered across its two hours and 28 minutes, but it's still one of the most boring films in recent memory. I was reminded of the far superior Kundun, which had no plot but exerted a strong hold on our visual imagination. Anna and the King has too much plot tripping up its enchantment.

Anna and King Mongkut forge an amiably combative bond the minute they lay eyes on each other. The King, it seems, is tired of women (and men) grovelling on the floor before him all the time; he's excited by a free-thinker like Anna, who dares to remain standing in his presence. Anna, for her part, is attracted to the King because ... well, he's played by Chow Yun-Fat; the script (credited to Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes) provides little other reason.

The British schoolmarm and the Asian god spend many, many scenes enlightening each other; the movie at its worst is like a lecture on comparative culture. I experienced more than a little deja vu, having recently caught up with director Andy Tennant's previous movie, the likable Ever After, in which a proto-feminist Cinderella (Drew Barrymore) challenged and debated the Prince until he had no choice but to fall in love with her. Apparently, all these monarchs need is a gutsy woman to set them straight and tell them when they're being jerks. Tennant has a solid eye for visuals; he also has an eye on the women in the audience who like being flattered with the notion that they, too, could sway a man of royalty with their ideas.

A subplot involving some of the King's rebellious men -- who want to go to war with the Burmese against the King's will -- sucks most of the life out of the movie and distracts from the already dubious magic of the romance. The only redeeming virtue of the scenes of palace intrigue is the impressive actor Randall Duk Kim, as the brutal General Alak; his saturnine features and weary delivery of stock evil dialogue reminded me of John Hurt. But this story thread just leads to an intelligence-insulting climax involving an exploding bridge. Do all movies have to end like Lethal Weapon these days?

Foster and Chow Yun-Fat occasionally get a pleasant rhythm going together, and their best moment comes when tragedy strikes: the King's anguish barely held in check by the stoicism required of a monarch; Anna's grief-stricken expression as she struggles not to weep openly (Foster is lighted so that her eyes seem ripped open by fishhooks). Chow Yun-Fat acquits himself well in his first major Hollywood role without gunplay. Though he's sometimes a bit hard to understand (to be fair, I wonder how intelligible Foster's lines of Chinese dialogue are to Chinese listeners), he gives the movie whatever dignity it has, and he steals the film right out from under Foster, who often seems preoccupied with maintaining her accent.

'Anna and the King' ends on an elegant note, but it's not enough to wipe out our memory of that idiotically explosive climax; the movie has already lost face, and our interest with it.

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originally posted: 12/30/06 12:34:27
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User Comments

2/21/14 Tatia My favorite movie!! 5 stars
2/27/13 Julie Link great movie! 4 stars
11/11/10 H Crompton this is the best version 5 stars
2/01/09 Pat Great romantic story! 4 stars
3/12/08 LAW MY FAVORITE VERSION!!! 5 stars
11/06/07 kimberly valerio in the start it is boring but when the story continously i think it is ok.. 5 stars
7/20/07 deedee I loved the movie, in fact, I bought it. Jodie Foster was awesome, and Chow was too! 4 stars
4/02/07 Stanley Thai It's a good film but it too long to like it. 3 stars
1/09/07 christina it a good movie 5 stars
11/27/06 Sunsham Excellent movie - very touching and thought provoking. How much of it is real?? 5 stars
10/21/06 michael Marcos it so good 5 stars
10/17/06 danielle pretty good, i like the fact that the culture was very accurate 5 stars
5/06/06 Ashley Hinz Good movie, ruined by the grusomeness. 4 stars
7/14/04 tatum Long, hokey, but I could not help getting caught up in it 4 stars
6/03/03 Virgil I loved it. Very beautiful. 5 stars
12/13/01 stefanos lets see 4 stars
6/20/01 canvex still o.k 4 stars
2/11/01 Leather jacket Yall go shit on yourself, Anna is my princess anyday 5 stars
1/07/01 Ian Eagleton A bit long, but the acting is superb and the subplots are ultimately very moving. 4 stars
12/15/00 QuanVu nothing 5 stars
12/10/00 BrittenysPears GREAT MOVIE. Worth rental fee. Foster has a boney nose 5 stars
12/09/00 Savvy Chow Yun-Fat is PHAT. AMAZING movie rent it you wont regret it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/09/00 fire-n-ice could have been better if an hour was cut out. very long winded. and no sex in that sucked. 3 stars
2/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Bah. 2 stars
1/21/00 node A stunningingly beautiful and inspiring motion picture,left me with a warm feeling inside. 5 stars
1/21/00 LC Worth it! 4 stars
1/04/00 Mckenzie Jackson Great film. Chow Yun Fat is great. 5 stars
1/03/00 crazy shithouse 1 stars
12/25/99 Tha Obsequious Bad Janatah A damn bore is what it is! Great review Lynchpyn! 1 stars
12/22/99 kim nguyen awesome 5 stars
12/21/99 Jennifer Yeh a MUST see ^_^ 5 stars
12/19/99 scottmar A bit long, without much payoff. 3 stars
12/19/99 Mr Showbiz Lovely to look at, though overlong and lifeless 3 stars
12/19/99 Jay So-so movie... Yun-Fatt oughta stick to action 3 stars
12/17/99 nil incredible 4 stars
12/17/99 Tracey Chow Yun-Fat and Jodie Foster are excellent! No songs! No guns! 5 stars
12/17/99 KC This has got ot be the BEST movie of the year, or the decade. It was so beautifully done! 5 stars
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  17-Dec-1999 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Andy Tennant

Written by
  Peter Krikes
  Steve Meerson

  Jodie Foster
  Chow Yun-Fat
  Bai Ling
  Mano Maniam
  Kenneth Tsang

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