The King and I

  • Review Date: June 11, 2007
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Musical
  • Release Year: 1956
  • Running Time: 133 minutes

Common Sense Media says

A boisterous, big-costumed classic musical.
  • Review Date: June 11, 2007
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Musical
  • Release Year: 1956
  • Running Time: 133 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Gives a flavor of the culture of Siam (Thailand).

Positive messages

There's a lot of fun made of the king for his poor grasp of English; he's made into a fool. While the film is set in the country know known as Thailand, none of the primary characters is Asian. The king is also sexist, thinking women more "lowly" than men in general, and certainly much lower than him. Many of the songs teach life lessons, like how to deal with fear and how to learn about a new culture.

Positive role models

Anna, the teacher, is intelligent, forthright, and stands up to the king. The king is portrayed as stubborn and sexist. The king has dozens of wives and hundreds of children, which may bewilder kids.

Violence & scariness

The king threatens to whip a slave girl who tries to escape to be with her lover. Talk of someone drowning.

Sexy stuff

Some close dancing, but no kissing or sexual behavior. There's a lot of talk, however, about women being "made to please men" and the king has multiple wives. When the Thai ladies are dressed up in European gowns, they "wear practically no undergarments," prompting them, in a moment of shock, to hike their dresses and flash English men. But nothing is seen on screen.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The king passes out cigars, though no one smokes onscreen.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film characterizes the ancient Asian culture of Siam (now Thailand) as backward and sexist. The king has dozens of wives and hundreds of children, which may bewilder kids. Also confusing, the roles of the main Thai characters are played by white and Latino Americans. But the story's music and enchanting characters are perfect for kids, who are likely to see the king's poor grasp of English as endearing and fun. But older children and adults may find the portrayal of the king racist.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is based on Margaret Langdon's 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam, which itself is based on the true story of Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr), an English woman in the 1800s who, after her husband dies, takes a job as teacher to the multitude of children sired by the King of Siam, King Mongkut. Anna finds when she arrives that the job and her new life are both more wonderful and more frustrating than she could have imagined. The children of the palace are delightful and sweet, and the king (played by Yul Brynner, who won an Academy Award for the role) is enchanting and progressive, but also very sexist. She's confronted with the king's dozens of wives as well as European beliefs that the king, who wants to make his reign "modern" and "scientific," is a barbarian. Can she take care of herself, her young son, and her charges, and help the king keep his kingdom?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Like Breakfast at Tiffany's and Flower Drum Song, THE KING AND I is a classic movie with legions of followers and great music. But it's also, like those films, fraught with racial misrepresentation that may make some viewers uncomfortable. The real treat of this film is the charm of Brynner's king and the songs. The songs! Children will love "Getting to Know You" and "Whistle a Happy Tune." Romantics will love "Shall We Dance." And all viewers will likely be mesmerized by the performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

To a young child, the king's silly sayings -- like his dramatic "etcetera, etcetera, etcetera" -- and his odd dictated letter offering to send the U.S. some elephants as beasts of burden, are endearing and fun. But adults may be disturbed by how inept and parochial this king appears. Add to that the fact that none of the primary Asian characters are played by Asian actors, and you have a recipe for racial misrepresentation. Like Flower Drum Song and Mickey Rooney's appalling Asian caricature in Breakfast at Tiffany's, the Asian characters here are shown as meek, silly, and absurd. Anna is a remarkably strong woman for the 1860s, which makes for some great verbal sparring between her and the king. But the idea of a white woman coming into a foreign country and "civilizing" them -- while it sure goes with the thinking of the time period -- is disturbing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Thai history and culture. Were the clothes, dance styles, and culture in the movie true to the culture?

  • What do you think about movies that don't cast Asian actors in Asian roles? Can you think of other examples of that happening?

  • Do you think you could play the role of someone of a different race fairly? Do you think the actors in this film were fair?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 29, 1956
DVD release date:November 7, 2006
Cast:Deborah Kerr, Rita Moreno, Yul Brynner
Director:Walter Lang
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Genre:Musical
Topics:Friendship, Music and sing-along
Run time:133 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of The King and I was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 13 year old Written byTsion March 18, 2009
AGE
6
QUALITY
 

A Decent Old-Fashoined Musical...

THE KING AND I isn't as grand as I remembered it. In fact, some parts make you want to fast forward very quickly. Some parts are rude (casting whites in Thai roles) and some parts are corny (the song between Tup-Tim and the slave guy), but it's impossible to give such a good-natured movie a bad rating. Some of the music is very good, like "Getting to Know You", "Shall We Dance" and "Hello Young Lovers". I wasn't impressed by Yul Brynner, but Gertrude Lawrence is very good. There is really no objectionable material at all. Kids may be saddened at (SPOILER) the king's death at the end of the film. The movie raises moral questions about slavery and the like, and the King is poised to whip a slave girl (he doesn't).
Kid, 9 years old September 20, 2009
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Enjoyable for ages 8+

Hi, I'm ten years old, I think the king and I is a great Enjoyable film! It's about a Proper Lady from Europe comes to teach the King of Siam's children. She teaches him and them how to be kind and fair. In the beginning a young women is given as a present, but she really wants to be with her true love,she sneaks out and meets him but then they get caught he dies and she gets threated. At the end the king dies.
What other families should know
Great messages
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written byadaMadman October 17, 2014
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Just a reminder about the ending (SPOILER ALERT)

We enjoyed it completely and utterly (kids age 7 and 9) but they were devastated by the very ending, which is not a happy one. My older son is a little bit extra-sensitive, but even so be aware it is a doozy of a tear-jerker.

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