- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 1999

Anna and the King” has at least the merit of being a pretty nay, sumptuous Christmas offering, upholding the longtime Hollywood tradition of releasing films heavy on production values and light on content during the holiday season.
This year, the crop of seasonal films has been singularly downbeat, when not positively grim. You should feel grateful that there’s one film around you can take the whole family to without feeling unduly squeamish.
The story of English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens tutoring the children of the king of Siam in the 1860s is well-known.
Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne played the title pair in “Anna and the King of Siam” (1946), while Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner sang their way through the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version, “The King and I” (1956).
Given the shifting tastes and trends that have developed in the past 40 years, you won’t be surprised to discover all manner of political correctness laced through the tale.
Anna as played by Jodie Foster may be prim and proper, but nonetheless shows a post-feminist spunkiness out of keeping with the Victorian age in which the film is supposed to take place. Indeed, it is her enterprising initiative that wins a crucial battle for the king.
As King Mongkut, Asian martial-arts superstar Chow Yun-Fat is a model monarch, and a sexy one to boot. Most women would be tickled to find him in their Christmas stocking.
Charming super charming. Strong. Gentle. Witty. You can believe this man not only can reign over a country successfully, but keep peace among the wives and concubines who have given him 58 children.
Romance blossoms between ruler and teacher but ever so discreetly. A touch on the cheek. An expressive look of longing, but that’s about it. On the whole, there’s little action in the film despite all the lush settings and hundreds of splendidly garbed extras.
There is something of a plot involving the British and local nationalists, but it seems a pretext to breathe a little action into what is basically an understated romance.
King Mongkut promotes democracy at a number of turns, and you are informed by a voice-over of his son a onetime youthful pupil of Anna’s that the king did, indeed, bring democracy and all manner of good to his countrymen.

Movies/ Cynthia Grenier

TITLE: “Anna and the King”
RATING: PG-13 (limited amount of violence)
CREDITS: Directed by Andy Tennant
RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes.

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