Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring: Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chitwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogan, Billy Eichner, John Oliver
Runtime: 118 Minutes
We move into new territory this week…. a “remake.” I’m going to assume that 90% of my readers know and/or have seen the original Lion King. I’ve already heard “How dare you give a classic that rating.” when discussing the upcoming article. I don’t hate remakes. I really don’t. I’m torn by this film. It’s hard to give an unbiased opinion of something that has been seen before. I remember watching the original animated film in 1994 in the drive-in theater in Lucasville. (Someone open that place back up!) I’ve also seen The Lion King on Broadway twice. Throughout the film I went back and forth whether this new rendition was good and more importantly was it necessary.
Onto the film.
We open in Africa. Immediately the film looks beautiful. In place of animated characters or Broadway performers we have “live-action” animals. In doing some research on the film Disney used a form of art called “photorealism” to create the characters. Essentially the production team uses pictures of live animals to create them for the screen. I will say they did an excellent job here. My one complaint was on a handful of occasions when the animals were talking it looked slightly fake. (who would have thought.) Back to the Pride Lands in Africa. We open with the classic “Circle of Life” and we see King Musafa (James Earl Jones reprising his role from the 1994 film.) welcoming young Simba into the world. I knew the story and where this was heading but I’ll be the first to admit the music and the imagery put a smile on my face and popcorn on the floor. (Sorry) I then questioned whether this opening was a shot for shot remake of the original. It was close. The first animal we hear speak is Scar (Ejiofor) and he killed it this entire film. I assumed this would be shot for shot, line for line, the same film. I was wrong. A few lines here and there added some backstory that was alluded to but not mentioned in the original film. Nice addition.
Simba looks up to his father and is eager to grow up. Mufasa tells him, “I’m only brave when I have to be…. even I get scared.” We see classic issues that I’m sure everyone faces at some time or another. Wanting results immediately. Mistakes acting as shadows over our heads. Living up to your potential. All great life lessons and Simba is in store for them all. The film cuts between scenes of dialogue and scenes with song. Every time a song is playing the film really thrived. I started to hear the children in the theater and some parents singing along.
The film really takes off when Timon (Eichner) and Pumbaa (Rogen) are introduced. We see two unlucky friends, a meerkat and a warthog growing with Simba and helping him learn their way of thinking. “Hakuna Matata” It means no worries….as the song tells us. Simba (Glover) now grown is living his life without a care in the world while his home is being decimated. The story asks Simba and the audience “Who are you?” and tells us that “Even a nobody is a somebody.” A good question to ask and a nice statement to always keep in mind. We also meet a grown up Nala (Knowles-Carter) too. The chemistry between the actors plays well but I don’t think they are really the stars of this version. If I was to poll the audience after the film, especially the kids, I think they would all say hands down say their favorites were Timon and Pumbaa. Every time the duo was on the screen, I heard laughter all around me. Then it hit me what is film was about…
I don’t want to focus too much on the plot for this review. More than likely, you’ve seen this story before. What I really want to look at is all the in-betweens. Is there enough there to make this worth it. There is. Is this a necessary film, actually yes. This isn’t a shot for shot remake but it’s close. That’s not the point. This version of The Lion King is for this generation to grow up with it. The happiness I noticed the people in the audience had from this film and from the songs makes it worth it. The photorealism is also a nice addition and the locations looked beautiful. (Whether they filmed there or not) I can confidently say whether you take your kids, grandkids, spouse, or just get friends together. Trust me I’ve seen this story countless times and on Broadway. I was hesitant, but you will have a good time. This is the story you know, but with a little more shine on it. HD for 2019 and remember “Hakuna Matata” 4 stars out of 5 #SHOPLOCAL
Andrew McManus is Operations Manager for Patties & Pints and its parent company Eflow Development.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-981-9158