The King and I (1956)

The King and I Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

The King and I Movie Review

The King and I is a 1956 musical comedy film directed by Walter Lang and starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. It is an amazing film that I enjoyed immensely.

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When I sit, you sit. When I kneel, you kneel. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!

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The King and I Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

It follows an English schoolteacher who comes to 19th century Thailand/Siam to teach the kids of their king. It follows the difficult, yet loving relationship between the two. I really loved this story as it is very unique, especially for its time, as it revolves in an Asian country and it has a very interesting relationship at its core. The humor is what drives this movie, but also a lot of heart. It is consistently well crafted and I just found it to be very engaging and mostly even riveting which is commendable given is quite long running time.

The character development is absolutely fantastic as is the acting. King Mongkut is such a fascinating character whom I will remember for decades to come how real and well realized he felt. I loved the clash of traditional and modern in him as he is an old-fashioned, some would say barbarian ruler, but the one who still wants to modernize his country which is evident from the get-go. That conflict was great, the film is thematically rich and his sexism in particular produced not only many laughs, but also a lot of growth for him.

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The King and I Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Anna Leonowens is also fantastic, although not as memorable as the king is. I loved that she is kind, generous and sympathetic, yet never perfect as she is very stubborn at times. Their relationship is the soul and heart of this movie and it drives the whole thing to some major heights. It is mostly realistic and it doesn’t change a whole lot towards its end which I appreciated. It stayed subtle. Their quarreling was funny and their relationship is a perfect example of two very different people who get on each other’s nerves, but still have huge respect for each other.

The other characters are never as important as these two are which isn’t a problem as these two are essential. Tuptim has a relatable problem and her relationship with Lun Tha is forgettable, but sweet. Lady Thiang is also solid and I really enjoyed most of those kids as they were cute and their love for Anna is heartwarming.

The King and I is one of the best acted movies of its time. Deborah Kerr is never as amazing as Brynner is, but she is still very good, quite charming and I really liked her emotive facial expressions. She gave a really good performance. But this is Yul Brynner’s show and he here gave his finest performance ever. I just loved him! Not only is he very handsome and immensely likable here, but also very physical in his performance which I loved. His speeches are great, his every line is so well uttered and he made this movie hilarious as it is. I just found his energy and his enormous talent so commendable and he just blew me away with a phenomenal performance that is one of the best of the decade.

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The King and I Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Let’s talk about some of the flaws here. It is far from a perfect rating as it is just so inherently flawed in some areas. One problem is the pacing which is mostly exceptional, but it got somewhat sluggish in the second half with that children’s performance lasting for 13 minutes or so which is just way too long for a scene, let alone a musical one.

And of course the biggest problem is its racism. I understand that it was made in the fifties which weren’t politically correct and when the stars were important which is why all of the actors here are Caucasian. However, that wasn’t a problem to me. The problem was its racist portrayal of the king and overall Thai people with very thick and ridiculous accents and a rather unfortunate, foolish tone to it. That was very annoying and I couldn’t quite forgive it despite its age.

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The King and I Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

But The King and I is so exceptionally well made that those flaws do not matter in the end. It is one of those musicals where the quality or likability of the songs does not impact the quality of the movie itself. I say that because admittedly most of these songs weren’t very memorable to me. Getting to Know You is easily the best number here and the only song that I enjoyed a lot. It is so catchy, so well sung and it is such a fun scene. I Whistle a Happy Tune is solid, Hello, Young Lovers is also quite good and A Puzzlement is very amusing, albeit tonally very odd. All of the other songs are quite forgettable.

The movie is much more successful as a comedy because it is just so damn funny. In fact, it was frequently hilarious and it made me laugh countless times. Some of the lines here were just hysterical and a lot of the humor stems from the king’s sexism and ignorance. Yul Brynner is so funny here and the movie just has that great lightweight, amusing tone to it that I really enjoyed.

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The King and I Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

It is mostly well paced, superbly directed and phenomenally crafted. It is emotional, but just in the right doses and never too much. It serves as a great adaptation and the dialogue is just terrific and so clever, at times even brilliant. The costumes are great, the sets are beautiful and the film always looks and sounds good. As for its Oscars, it received five awards out of nine nominations and all of them are deserved with Yul Brynner’s Best actor win being one of the most deserved ever in the category. Of the nominations it lost, I would say that Best Picture is frustrating as it is easily the best film of a very weak year, at least of those I’ve seen so far. And it is just so much better than any other nominee that year. Overall, I loved it and it is the best film I’ve seen recently.

With terrific technical aspects, solid songs, mostly excellent editing and such marvelous performances with Yul Brynner’s charismatic turn being just fantastic and he’s one of the most deserved Oscar winners ever, The King and I is admittedly very racist and the songs aren’t as memorable as they should have been, but the humor is so strong that I laughed a lot, the relationship at the center of it is exceptional, the characters are unforgettable and the film is so charming, amusing and heartwarming that you can’t help but love it.

My Rating – 4.5

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Posted in 1950s, 1956, Comedy, FILM DECADES, MOVIE REVIEWS, Musical and tagged , , , , , , .

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