The King And I

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The King and I

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The King and I

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Though just about every mainstream animated feature since 1989's The Little Mermaid has taken its cues from Broadway, The King And I is the first to be adapted directly from a popular musical. Other than Paul Simon's The Capeman or the complete works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, it's hard to imagine a more ill-advised choice of source material. The tale of an English widow brought in by the King of Siam to teach modern Western values to his adorable, backwards-thinking children, The King And I hasn't aged particularly well, and it never offered much for kids anyway, save for a few catchy Rodgers & Hammerstein numbers. But leave it to Richard Rich, director of Disney's infamous flop The Black Cauldron, to turn this new version into a real calamity. Rich and his committee of screenwriters all but scrap the title relationship to make room for their many bad ideas, which include a rendition of "I Whistle A Happy Tune" set during a perilous sea-dragon attack, a bungling Buddha-shaped sidekick that's about as progressive as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany's, and the slapstick antics of a giggling chimp named Moochie. The one advantage to the animated The King And I is the music, but even such sing-along classics as "Getting To Know You" and "Shall We Dance" are spoiled by inane setpieces and overreaching vocals that strangle the life out of every note. Infants may enjoy the brightly colored backgrounds, but for older children and adults, it will seem like an especially dreary Saturday morning.

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