"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
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:
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
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.
Comments? Drop me a line at
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
"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 bad...man, 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
"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