The Lion King (PG); Dir. Jon Favreau; Three Stars

All together now: “Naaaaaaaaants Ingonyamaaaa…”. There are few opening lines that inspire a sense of nostalgia quite like the opening to The Lion King, a fact Disney is betting an awful lot of money on in its latest remake of one of its old classics. With its predecessors being artistically suspect but financially successful, can Jon Favreau (who made the best of the bunch with 2016s The Jungle Book) improve on perfection?

The story, as you already know, focuses on Simba (voiced by JD McCrary), a lion cub whos heir to the throne of the Pride Lands. When he is framed for the death of his beloved father Mufasa (James Earl Brooks) by his jealous uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Simba goes into hiding. However, with the Pride Lands in turmoil, an older Simba (Donald Glover) must find the courage to return and claim his throne.

When is an animated movie not an animated movie? When the computer animation is so real you think youre watching a documentary. Visually, Favreau has achieved something truly special, with every animal looking photo-realistic and the environments feeling completely natural. This format allows Favreau to show what an incredible visual filmmaker he is, with the famous opening scene breathtakingly recreated in live action (or very good CGI… at this point the lines are blurred). Small flourishes, such as a sequence following a small bit of fur on the wind, can also draw an audible gasp.

Unfortunately, its greatest achievement is also its greatest set back. The characters look like real lions, and the trouble with that is that lions cant emote. This affects almost every scene where youre required to feel something, with the stony faced big cats moving their mouths but showing nothing in their eyes. It also becomes difficult to see whos talking, particularly when theres a crowd of lions on screen (not great for a movie called The Lion King). Numbers such as Can You Feel The Love Tonight become a bit detached, and crucially the tear-jerking stampede scene is nowhere near as devastating as it should be.

Theres also the matter of comparison. Disney reached its zenith with the original The Lion King, a classic inspired by Hamlet that became their last truly great hand drawn epic. Making over $900m at the box office, and over $500m in VHS sales, it was a global phenomenon by any standard. It puts Favreau in an impossible position – deviate from the plot, as he did successfully with The Jungle Book, and you lose the nostalgia factor. Stick closely to the narrative, as he does here, and it becomes painfully clear hes making an inferior film.

While it isnt a classic, there are moments that are a whole lot of fun. Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner are perfectly cast as Pumbaa and Timon, with Rogens easy going tones perfectly complimenting Eichners mile-a-minute delivery. The pair are perhaps the only casting (besides the returning James Earl JRead More – Source


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