The King's Chamberlain has become a murderous magician whose continuous attempts to usurp the King are deflected by fruit-throwing animal sidekicks.
Warner Bros based Morgan Creek productions have taken on the mouse factory using the short cut of animating a proven hit. Then they reshaped it in the Disney mould. The story of English governess Anna Leonowens (Richardson) and her employment by the king of Siam (Vidnovic) to teach the royal children, is based on romanticised fact. The 1951 musical and its 1956 multi-Oscar-winning screen adaptation centred on the culture clash between the progressive English lady and the proud, autocratic monarch, shot through with love stuff, charming children and catchy songs. Not exciting enough for this version, here the King's chamberlain (Ian Richardson) is transformed into an evil magician bent on usurping the king, while various principals have been given animal sidekicks and the unhappy concubine is now a servant girl loved by the kick-boxing crown prince (Hong), prompting a hectic jungle escapade that takes us out of the palace. While we're at it, someone said, let's add a touch of The Sound Of Music, too: so Anna and her charges romp through Bangkok singing Getting To Know You to the happy peasants.
But all this effort falls flat. There is nothing heinous, of course, in sanitising a bit of popular culture for kids, who will find this a cheery, tuneful way to pass a matinee. It is, however, a very '50s/'60s look in design and animation (economically spread between animators in the US, Ireland and Asia), with none of the "Wow!" impact given to other recent animated features by miraculous computer effects and CGI bugs.
This looks extremely dated compared to its CGI contemporaries, though it will divert the kids at matinee time.