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anna and the king is at least the fourth film adaptation of margaret landon's fact based novel the king and i , and it's big , expensive and soulless .
though good-looking , its lavish sets , fancy costumes and luscious cinematography can do little to compensate for the emotional wasteland that is peter krikes and steve meerson's script .
so much money was spent on pretty pictures that they forgot to actually make the movie interesting .
this is jodie foster's first movie since the jaw-droppingly brilliant contact came out more than two years ago and it isn't the best choice to show off her acting chops .
she's trapped in the stoic role of anna leonowens , the uptight , widowed british schoolteacher who comes to siam ( now thailand ) with her son to instruct the king's ( chow yun-fat ) son in the ways of the west ( because " the ways of england are the ways of the world ) .
the king likes her so much he puts her in charge of educating the whole royal family ( 58 kids with 10 more in the way ; impressive , no ? ) .
the eldest prince is none too happy about this ( " father , have i offended you in some way ?
why do you punish me with imperialist schoolteacher ? ) , but soon gets to know anna and her stern- mother-who-loves-you personality better and comes to like her .
meanwhile , siam comes under attack from the neighboring british colony of burma .
the king and his close advisors suspect that this is britain's doing which arouses suspicion in siam , putting anna in an uncomfortable position .
she is not sure what to make of this and seems to herself suspect british involvement in the crisis but works to diffuse the king's prejudices .
he , though self-righteous as ever , can't help but be influenced by the eloquent anna and they slowly , quietly , develop affections for each other .
there is a scene in the middle of anna and the king where one of the king's younger daughters dies .
it's your classic deathbed scene , with the girl's mournful eyes staring at her father , who tries only semi- successfully to maintain his composure .
anna then comes in and cries a bit .
the sequence was there for a purpose : to evoke a strong emotional response from the viewer .
i'm usually a sucker for such scenes and yet this time , i was just sitting there , my emotions untouched .
this remains true through all of the movie which remains emotionally barren .
we never develop connections to the characters ; never given a reason to care .
this ludicrously long epic was directed by andy tennant , whose last film was ever after , one of my favorites of 1998 .
i do not doubt tennant's ability to put together a decent movie , but anna and the king , aside from being psychologically inept is also technologically deficient .
the sets and scenery are gorgeous , but the camerawork does nothing to convey its grandeur .
even terrence malick managed to do more with flora and fauna in his otherwise abysmal the thin red line than tennant can muster from $75 million worth of props and a shoot in malaysia .
we feel like the camera is restricted to its immediate point of view ; there are no wide tracking shots or sweeping zooms to fill us with larger-than-life awe .
i liked both foster and yun-fat , who give entertaining if not terribly involving performances in the two lead roles .
foster's generally stoic persona serves her well here , as she is playing a reserved , formal and rather underdeveloped character .
yun-fat is especially effective , perfectly conveying the king of siam's sangfroid permeated with violent outbursts .
what does anna and the king in is its inability to involve the viewer in its characters and situations .
the cast is great , the director is talented , and the budget is lavish , but this ill-advised remake of the classic rogers and hammerstein movie is unable to utilize any of those things to form a compelling whole .
this is an emotionless costume epic .