The Lion King

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I used to play basketball with a group of guys in Kearny Mesa. There was a smart psychiatrist, who was tall (but not much of a basketball player), and he complained about The Lion King (back in 1994). I felt weird, as a 25-year-old, arguing with a 40-year-old, trying to explain to him how crazy he was. You see, he had kids that were 7 and 9-years-old, and he didn’t think the movie would be appropriate for them since Mustafa dies (sorry if you needed a “spoiler alert” on that fact). I exclaimed, “Dude, the movie is Disney! It’s rated G!”

Now with this version, he’d have a point (although I’m guessing his kids are old enough now to handle the death scene). There’s something about the violence in this that is a bit harsher because the animals look so real (this version is also PG).

Many critics are bothered by this being almost a scene-for-scene remake, and the fact that it’s a Disney money-grab (both complaints that are valid). Yet that doesn’t dismiss the fact that the humor worked, and the visual effects were stunning. In fact, it’s a shoe-in for the “visual effects” Oscar. Sure, I would’ve liked all of these visuals, and voice talent, and money — to have been spent on original material. You can’t enjoy this as much since you know everywhere the story is going.

You might think Jon Favreau (Swingers, Iron Man, Chef, Iron Man, Elf, etc.) was an odd choice to direct, but he gave Disney success with their first live-action reboot with The Jungle Book (and Jungle Book 2 in the near future). 

It would be hard for him to screw this up, because he has a story everyone loved. They brought in some powerhouse musical talent (Danny Glover, Beyonce), the regal-voiced James Earl Jones is back, and there’s Seth Rogen cracking us up as Pumbaa, John Oliver being humorous as the neurotic hornbill Zazu, and Chiwetel Ejiofor scaring us as Scar (although he’s no Jeremy Irons). And any movie that casts Keegan-Michael Key gets bonus points from me.

From the opening sequence of “The Circle of Life” — this picture just looked gorgeous. I’ve heard some critics complain that the look is fine, until animals start talking with human voices, which felt very Mr. Ed. Well, that wasn’t a problem for me, just as it wasn’t a problem hearing Mr. Ed (Helms) in Disneynature Penguins a few months ago.

The two things I kept wondering was…why are people calling this “live-action” if there aren’t “live” humans in it? Doesn’t that just make this…animation? Second, and someone please do the research on this for me (I’m lazy), if you’re going to bring back James Earl Jones (and how would they ever been able to replace that iconic voice)…did they just take the voice tracks from the original? And if they did that, did they just cut him a check for doing nothing? And if they didn’t do that, why didn’t they do that?

Of course, you still have the incredible Hans Zimmer score, and the songs you know and love. Now, hearing Beyonce and Donald Glover sing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” made me think of something I read in Matthew Lickona’s review in the San Diego Reader. He was comparing this movie to Weezer covering the Toto song “Africa.” It was the perfect analogy.

He only gave the movie one star though, which is rather harsh. Now my wife surprised me by not caring for this version, either. 

I just thought the visuals were stunning enough, and it was entertaining (I’m guessing there’s about 20 minutes of original material, the rest is all a “cover version”).

3 stars out of 5.




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