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"Anna and the King"

Directed by Andy Tennant.
Written by Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes.
Starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat.
Release Year:  1999 
Review Date:  12/20/99


First off, happy holidays!  For some reason, it really doesn't feel like Christmas is coming so soon—is it just me?  Maybe I need to have a 35-day Christmas break, like during the good ol' school years at UVA.  [Insert misty-eyed vision of Justin here.]

Well, on Sunday night, Laura Wilber and I went to check out my favorite actor, Chow Yun-Fat, in his first non-violent American role.  Even though I know that Chow is a great actor, this particular choice concerned me:  is Chow getting out of action movies?  I mean, Chow is in his mid-40's, and he's made over 70 films—maybe he's sick of killing so many folks in his movies.

But, thankfully, Chow is very good in this movie, and his English is 4270% better than in his first movie here in the states, “The Replacement Killers.”  Unfortunately, this movie is a complete snooze.  I found myself, three or four times, missing lines because of hard whiplash resulting in my head hitting against the back of the chair I was sitting in.  In fact, two things happened for the first time in many years for me at a movie:

  1. I walked out of the theater while the movie was in progress to “get some candy” (read: wake my ass up) for the first time since “Alien 3” in 1993.  In '93, I was extremely sick to my stomach, and I couldn't contain the thunder for more than about 45 minutes at a time...and, that was a long movie!

  2. I fell asleep while a film was in progress for the first time since “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (Tim Burton's animatronic film) back in, I believe, '94.  The film itself was pretty good overall...the second time that I watched it!

I never considered leaving the movie outright, but that is simply because I would have felt weird leaving Laura at the theater all by herself.  Forced to watch Jodie Foster—who, let's be honest, hasn't made a good movie in a lot of years (when did “The Silence of the Lambs” come out?), tries on an English accent for the part of Anna, high-class and high-snob British schoolteacher that is invited by the king (Yun-Fat) to teach his brood of 30-something children in 1860s Siam.  See, he's got so many kids because, as Mel Brooks told us in “History of the World, Part I”, it's good to be the king!  Anna has a full bucket of attitude to go along with a young son that accompanies her on her journey as she learns the customs of the king and the ways of his people.  Chow and Jodie build some lukewarm chemistry over the time that they spend together, and all of this is set against a beautiful backdrop of royal palaces, expensive-looking costumes and great period piece music.  Actually, the grandiose sets used in this movie are the real strong point outside of Yun-Fat's performance.

But, damn, if it was just a bit more exciting!  This movie starts so slow that it made me think about why I don't like “The Remains of the Day”-type period motion pictures; I don't mind taking some time to set up all of the characters that I'm going to meet during the course of the movie, but in this movie, there are only two worth mentioning—the ones in the title!  So, I got the feeling that the writers were just inserting scenes to fill up some time before Chow and his army go off to battle at the end of the film.  I had my razor just over my wrist area when things finally started happening.

Argh.  Total frustration.  But, I will say this:  Laura really liked the movie, and she was clearly verklempt over a couple of the more emotional sequences.  One of my directors at work really loved the movie, too.  So, I'll just say that it isn't for everyone and leave it at that.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09