Anna and the King (1999) Review

"Anna and the King" American Theatrical Poster

"Anna and the King" American Theatrical Poster

AKA: Anna
Director: Andy Tennant
Writer: Anna Leonowens, Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes
Producer: Lawrence Bender, Ed Elbert
Cast: Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton, Syed Alwi, Randall Duk Kim, Kay Siu Lim, Melissa Campbell, Deanna Yusoff, Mano Maniam
Running Time: 140 min.

By James H.

When you walk into a film like “Anna & The King”, you expect nothing less than a grand Hollywood epic in the style of “The Godfather” or “The English Patient”, right? Well, that’s what I was hoping to see with this film, unfortunately I didn’t. Perhaps my expectations were too high. The film is another re-telling of the story of Anna Leonowens and the King of Siam. Anna, an English schoolteacher, travels to Saim (now Thailand for those of you looking at the map and not finding anything) to teach all 68 of King Mongkut’s children, and a few wives and concubines as well. Then, during this time, Anna and the King fall in love. But to complicate things, some people are plotting and conspiring to overthrow Mongkut.

The film is marred mainly by the direction. Andy Tennant (the painful “Ever After”) was certainly not the best choice for this film. Perhaps someone with a larger sense of style, someone that can handle a grandiose epic like this. A director like Martin Campbell (“GoldenEye”) or Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”) would have been ideal. “Anna & The King” was shot in Malaysia, and while Tennant captures the scenery, the beauty seems to be lost. Another problem occurs in the pacing. This film is 149 minutes long, and at some points it is paced well, moving along well, but in others it slows down to a snail’s pace, which can get a little irritating.

The other problem with the film is the script. Some of the dialogue is stilted and a little too simplistic for the story.

Chow Yun-Fat gives a great performance as King Mongkut. It is definitely his best American role so far. He plays the King as he would any other character, with emotion and enough charisma to fill a small country. He looks very comfortable on screen and has the presence to play a king. Jodie Foster on the other hand, sleepwalks through her part as Anna. Normally, she is captivating (see “Taxi Driver”, “Silence of the Lambs” and “Maverick”), but here there are only a few scenes were her real abilities shine through. Chow and Foster have good chemistry together.

While a good film, “Anna & The King” is still missing that certain little spark that would have made it something more, perhaps even an Oscar-worthy film.

James H’s Rating: 7/10

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