Disney’s onslaught of remaking their animated classics into live-action movies continue with “The Lion King” after “Dumbo” and “Aladdin.” I’m probably going to get a lot of heat for this, but so be it.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. This is a visually impressive and beautiful remake. However, with every scene that displays the incredible technology at work, there are scenes that amount to nothing more than just the filmmakers copying and pasting what worked for the animated version into live-action.
Of course we all know the story: Mufasa the Lion (once again voiced by the great James Earl Jones) and his lioness queen Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) give birth to their cub son Simba (JD McCrary) and prepare him for his destiny as the new king of Pride Rock.
That is until Mufasa’s brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) gnashes his teeth with jealousy as he was wanting the throne for himself. This sets in motion his plot to take over. I’m pretty sure we all know how this turns out.
Tragedy does indeed strike for young Simba and he’s banished from his homeland and forced to live in exile. While in the deserts, he encounters the meerkat and warthog Timon and Pumbaa (Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen) who unsurprisingly provide the comic relief.
While learning how to live with Hakuna Matata as his new philosophy on life, Simba is soon reunited with his childhood friend, Nala (Beyonce) who tells him he must reclaim the throne from Scar.
Director Jon Favreau has spared no expense in the visuals department, but as a story, he seems merely content on giving us a kind of greatest hits compilation instead of adding some new material. Some audiences might not mind.
The lions in this movie are the movie’s Achilles heel in the sense that they aren’t very emotive as opposed to some of the other supporting characters such as John Oliver as Zazu or Eichner and Rogen are very expressive and seem to enjoy their roles much more.
Some scenes feel rushed and don’t quite give us the emotional impact that they should. Plus, it sounded to me like some of the actors were just simply reading their dialogue without really attempting to embrace the material.
I know audiences will flock to this film regardless of my disappointments, but it breaks my heart to give it a mildly negative review. Hakuna Matata doesn’t quite apply to this remake.
(Rated PG for sequences of violence and peril and some thematic elements.)