With only a few exceptions, Jodie Foster seems to have chosen most of her '90s roles based on the opportunity to try on new accents, most notably the Southern belle in Sommersby and the self-created marble-mouthed dialect in Nell. Perhaps a desire to expand her range beyond North America explains the selective actress' presence in Anna And The King, because not much else does. Based on the story of Anna Leonowens, who served as a tutor for the children of Siamese King Mongkut in the 19th century—a story previously filmed with Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison and later turned into the musical The King And I—Anna And The King pairs Foster with a perpetually smirking Chow Yun-Fat, who hires her to prepare his children for life in a Western-dominated world. With flawless accent in place, Foster sets about doing just that. Meanwhile, her employer has problems of his own involving rebellious factions within his own kingdom, troubles that don't get in the way of spending as much time with Foster as possible, arguing with her when not exchanging meaningful glances. Director Andy Tennant brings the storybook look and accompanying mentality he brought to Ever After to a story that would have benefited from a more thoughtful treatment, essentially turning an interesting moment of cultural intersection into a domestic comedy with elements of adventure. Foster and Chow get heated up about the roles of women in society and the importance of tradition, but it doesn't mean anything; nothing resembles a genuine exchange of ideas. Even a subplot involving the execution of one of Chow's concubines has no consequences once it reaches its grisly resolution. It looks nice, but there's not a significant thought in this film's pretty little head.
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