The King And I review

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In case you've forgotten the 1956 musical this 'toon is based on (you've never spent a wet Sunday afternoon channel-hopping?), it was one of those song-packed Cinemascope extravaganzas that only the '50s was capable of producing. While not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, it was soothingly pretty, slickly done and had Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr belting out enough cheery Rodgers&Hammerstein tunes (Whistle A Happy Tune, Shall We Dance?, Getting To Know You) to keep Grandma humming happily for the rest of the afternoon.

So you'd think a cartoon version of this would be jaunty fun, wouldn't you? Wrong. This is a lash-up of a movie. The lumpy plot is fractured by shoehorning in magic spells, dragons, cackling villains and martial arts. The songs are under-orchestrated and weakly sung (not to mention shoved in with a manic mathematical precision that sees no more than 10 minutes go by without a ditty). Even the voice cast don't sound as if they could be bothered. Respectable Brit thesps Miranda Richardson and Ian Richardson give the perfunctory performances of people counting the seconds until they can bank their fees.

Then there's the Saturday-morning-cartoon-standard animation. Backgrounds appear bleached and flat, character outlines have a sketchy quality, while the much-vaunted state-of-the-art computer-animated sections look like they were taken from another movie entirely, with different light, shading and colour scheme.

There was some laughter from the audience. However, it mainly came from the under-fives, generally whenever the bad guy's fat chief henchman lost another tooth (the only running gag). If demoralisation isn't your thang, you'd best steer clear.

The smallest of kids may well like The King And I, but they'll like it no less on video (and at least then you'll be able to nip off to the kitchen for a cup of tea and leave them to it). Disney shouldn't start looking over its shoulder just yet.

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