Plot: What’s it about?
When Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster) was offered the chance to teach the children of King Mongkut (Chow Yun-Fat), she has no idea of what to expect and the same can be said from Mongkut’s perspective. Both of notions of what the other will be like, but these are based more on stereotypes than fact and soon enough, they’ll discover that those stereotypes do not always ring true. Their relationship isn’t all smooth to say the least, but they find they have much more in common than they’d ever expected. This isn’t the most stable time for Mongkut and his people either, as the threat of violent war looms over them, but he works toward a resolution and tries to secure allies and outside aid to protect his country and people. Even with the culture clash and unfavorable circumstances, Anna and Mongkut manage to open up and learn from each other and that is no simple task in the least. Both had no idea of what would happen when they crossed paths, but it seems as though something most unexpected has been blooming between them. The culture barrier is present and the circumstances are piled against them, but perhaps in the end Anna and Mongkut can find the romance they both know exists.
When I saw Anna and the King at my local theater, I missed out on most of the character details and subtle storyline points. I have to admit, I was distracted and I was looking forward to this home video release to check out what I had missed. But as it stands, I was once again distracted and the same culprit was involved this time. I couldn’t listen to the dialogue or pay attention to the characters because the film’s lush visuals had me glued to the screen. This is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, from the natural scenic shots to the gorgeous costumes and set designs, this movie never fails to be a true feast for the eyes. But I went back once again and this time, I made sure to soak in the visuals, but also take in the rest of the film’s aspects. I know critics were harsh on the performances and such, but I found this to be a wonderful telling of a story I think we’ve all heard before. The visuals outshine the rest of the movie to be sure, but this is a terrific example of how to make a sweeping, visually charged period film. And since Fox has delivered a top notch disc in all respects, your money is well spent whether you choose to rent or purchase this release.
When it comes to visually sparkling projects, director Andy Tennant is no stranger to them as he has several impressive ones under his belt. Tennant isn’t one of the better known directors in the business and his experience in film is limited, but he delivers a potent movie with Anna and the King, one that succeeds in all respects. The elements all seem in fine form and Tennant steps in to tie them all together in one nice package, as well as toss in some of his own final touches along the path. This is a grand and visually dynamic motion picture, but Tennant handles himself well and comes through with flying colors in the end. Other films directed by Tennant include It Takes Two, Fools Rush In, and Ever After. He might be better known for his work firing a gun, but Chow Yun-Fat (Hard Boiled, The Replacement Killers) delivers a prime dramatic performance in this film. He gives a restrained, yet powerful turn here and to be honest, even I was surprised with his skills here. Also in fine form is Jodie Foster (The Silence Of The Lambs, Nell) and even though her accent slips a little at times, she embodies her character very well. The cast also includes Randall Duk Kim (The Thin Red Line), Tom Felton (The Borrowers), Ling Bai (The Crow), Melissa Campbell, and Keith Chin.
Video: How does it look?
Anna and the King is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As I mentioned above, this film has incredible visuals and as such, the transfer would have to perfect to do this movie justice. I am pleased to say that Fox has done just that, as I could find no problems with this transfer, even minor ones. The source print is clean and pristine, which means no grain or debris, while compression flaws are absent at all times. The rich colors stream across the screen, with no hint of distortion in the least and flesh tones seem natural and warm also. I also found no problems with the contrast, as shadow depth is accurate and detail is never obscured at any time. This one needed to be perfect…and it is.
Audio: How does it sound?
This film not only looks good, it also sounds good thanks to an effective Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. I simply loved this film’s score and it sounds better than ever in this mix, using all the channels to become immersive and rich. The score meshes with the film to perfection and as such, I am pleased it sounds so good here. There is some powerful use of the surrounds, but usually the rear channels provide subtle audio, which build an atmosphere for the film. This works out very well, as the smaller sounds tend to suck you right into the film and when the impact driven effects arrive, they also come through loud and clear. The dialogue also seems crisp and distinct, no volume or separation issues arise at all. This disc also includes 2.0 surround tracks in English & French, as well as subtitles in English & Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is a special edition release and as such, it is packed with a wide selection of bonus materials. The main supplement is an audio commentary with director Andy Tennant, who seems to have a lot to say about this movie and the production involved. He discusses the visual choices for the film, how it compares to previous versions of the story, and even his basic intentions as far as making this film was concerned. It has some silent stretches, but overall this is an informative tracks that fans of the movie will not want to miss. A selection of seven deleted scenes have also been jammed onto this disc, which include the unused prologue and epilogue sequences. These scenes are nice to have and the optional director’s commentary offers even more insight into why these scenes were excised. A series of five brief featurettes have been included, each focusing on a different aspect of the production, such as costumes or the elephants used in the film. These might be short and not that in depth, but they combine to form a nice behind the scenes glimpse. A fourteen minute behind the scenes television special is also found here, which covers even more of the production’s aspects. Rounding out this disc is a music video for Joy Enriquez’ How Can I Not Love You and the film’s theatrical trailer.