You all know how much I love the story of “The King and I.” The multitude of times I’ve mentioned it here on Families.com is a testament to that. When I saw that an animated version of the film had been done, I was curious, but skeptical. After watching it this last week, I’m no longer curious, and the skepticism was proven to be well-founded.
Of course we have the basic elements of the story. Anna Leonowens, a young widow woman, is hired to travel from England to Siam to teach the king’s children. She takes with her Louie, her own son, and plans to bring him up in the proper English tradition even though they are in a foreign country. In order to accomplish this, she asks for a house apart from the palace, and when the deal was struck, the king agreed. But when she arrives, he insists that she live in the palace. She’s outraged, but as time goes by, she comes to love the children and feel a deep respect for the king. All of that is true to the other versions, as are the musical numbers we’ve come to know and love over the years.
However, as seems to be the case with almost every animated film I’ve ever seen, the producers felt the need to add in a comedic element, and the bumblings and shenanigans of the designated clowns in this film were contrived and clumsy, and didn’t tie in to the story at all.
In addition, what would an animated film be without a dangerous villain? Thus enters the evil sorcerer who wants to take over the throne. Don’t remember him from the original? That’s because he wasn’t there. Nope, not there. Made up purely for the cartoon.
I’m not sure what it is about that. Do the filmmakers feel that our children can’t enjoy a movie without silly animals and pratfalls and extra danger? Have we so dumbed down our entertainment that we’re incapable of appreciating a film on its own merits without all the standard bells and whistles?
Personally, I think the best version of this film is the one starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brenner. I also see nothing wrong with showing the film to my family as is, without any attendant hoopla. A good story will stand up on its own. There are some, of course, that should wait until our children are a little older, but that’s okay. I don’t see the need to show them a cartooned version now and give them the rest later – if they aren’t ready for the whole story, chances are, they aren’t quite ready for part of it. But you know me – I’m opinionated.
This film was rated G.