Rated PG | 118 mins.
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones
Disney has been on a pretty hot streak in 2019 of re-imagining classic animated films in the form of spectacular live action (Aladdin) despite a flop (Dumbo). However, The Lion King doesn't really count since there are no "live" aspects of the film, but it does look remarkable and feel real in some ways. 25 years after the original movie hit theaters, the new version is basically a shot-for-shot CGI remake, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Nothing new was to be seen, but what held my attention was the clean, hyper-realistic images of African wildlife.
Aside from the stacked cast, what makes The Lion King stand out from the rest is definitely the use of technology. It felt more like a showcase of how far we've come and how it has quickly elevated and improved in recent years. Obviously animals can't talk (right?), but you might sometimes forget that when watching Jon Favreau's adaptation. The looks of all the animals, their movements, the landscapes, and the lighting, amongst other things, are so well done that you can't help but praise the team behind the scenes that made this whole thing come to fruition.
Again, nothing has been added or removed in this spin of The Lion King, and I can't decide if that's a pro or a con. On one hand, it stays true to the original. On the other hand, there wasn't really anything unexpected. The original film is my personal favorite Disney movie, but when news broke that Donald Glover and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter would be playing Simba and Nala, respectively, I knew that there was a chance that it could potentially be better. They are, without a doubt, two of the biggest names in modern entertainment, and they're also two of my favorite artists of all time. That means nothing can go wrong and nothing did go wrong. Thank God.
Though Glover and Knowles-Carter were the main characters, in which the world revolved around them, it was really Billy Eichner as Timon and Seth Rogen as Pumbaa that completely stole the show. Even though it's an animated children's film with cute talking animals, a lot of their scenes seemed improvised and it paid off in huge laughs. Rogen's famous giggles, a Beauty and the Beast reference, and pokes at Glover's riffing when singing "Hakuna Matata" are just a few examples of the Rogen/Eichner genius.
Overall, though the movie didn't exceed any expectations, it just met them and still had an enjoyable quality about it. It absolutely had a major nostalgia factor to it, so fans of the original will be satisfied, especially since all of the original songs are in it thanks to Hans Zimmer and Elton John returning with the help of Pharrell Williams. Also, James Earl Jones is the only person allowed to voice Mufasa, so that's an added bonus. So, the bottom line: is the 2019 version better than the original? It's tough to make a call since I'm biased when it comes to Glover or Beyoncé, but I have to say no. Because of the vision Favreua had of making sure it looked as realistic as possible, it didn't have the pop and vibrancy that the original is well-known for. However, it's an admiral attempt that the new generation can appreciate. ★★★½
★★★★★ Classic | ★★★★ Excellent | ★★★ Good | ★★ Fair | ★ Poor