THE LION KING review by Ronnie Malik – Jon Favreau brings the animated classic some new life

THE LION KING review by Ronnie Malik – Jon Favreau brings the animated classic some new life

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Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Donald Glover, Beyonce, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Penny Johnson Jerald, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, J. Lee

Rating: B

In 1994, the wonderful world of Disney brought movie audiences one of the most beloved animated films of all time, THE LION KING. The production was a beautiful tale of a young lion named Simba that is all too anxious to grow up and assert his independence. But his wicked Uncle Scar convinces the little lion that he is responsible for killing Mufasa, his father and king of their vast African kingdom. Ordered by his evil uncle to run and never come back, Simba travels far across the countryside where he is befriended by Timon, a talkative little Meerkat, and Pumbaa, a lazy but well-meaning Warthog. With his two new companions teaching him the lessons of life, Simba grows into a strong noble young lion. Meanwhile the jealous and resentful Scar ruthlessly controls the pride lands and will destroy anyone who challenges him. When Simba’s past catches up to him, the heir to the throne returns to his birthplace to overthrow the self-absorbed dictator so that a new order and peace can be restored to the once serene kingdom. The dialogue, amazing music, and endearing characters all made for one of the most memorable animated productions of all time. Now, 25 years later, Disney is breathing new life into this animated classic.

The list of actors lending their voices to the animated characters include Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Scar), Beyoncé (Nala), Donald Glover (Simba), Billy Eichner (Timon), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), John Oliver (Zazu), and brings back the powerful James Earl Jones as the voice of Mufasa. Each actor uses the strength of their voices to re-create the amazing characters from the original film. Beyoncé lends her singing voice to the original song “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and the new song “Spirit” reminding of us how she came to be known as Queen Bey. But sadly, Beyoncé’s speaking lines don’t do much for her character and come off rather flat. John Oliver is great as Zazu while Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen are just delightful as Simba’s running mates. Chiwetal Ejofor isn’t quite as menacing as Jeremy Irons, who originally played Scar, but was still able to bring to light the wickedness of Mufsasa’s nemesis. Donald Glover is an earnest, thoughtful, and heroic Simba who will ultimately do the right thing, but he lacked connection with Beyoncé as Nala, the love interest in the storyline.

So what makes this version of THE LION KING different from its predecessor? The answer – the amazing visuals! The CGI is incredible, giving life like qualities to all the animals. The inhabitants of the African wonderland look almost real. There is incredible detail in the first scene as we see Mufasa standing with his mane blowing in the wind as he looks over his kingdom. One will have to do a double take to confirm that it is not a real lion on the screen. The squirming little newborn cub is cute as a kitten and the nature of a baby lion is captured in every movement. The colors on everything from the birds, to the grass, to the flowers are all so vibrant giving the film a life like quality. A stampede of wild beasts appears to be right out of a national geographic documentary. The only slight draw back of the CGI is that the animals often lacked the facial expressions depicting the emotions that the original was able showcase so it was a little harder to make an emotional connection to what the characters were experiencing.

The 2019 rendition of THE LION KING stays true to the original story and keeps the lyrical and cheerful music intact. When the “Circle of Life” plays through the theater it is hard not to get a little choked up by the power of a song that will take many through a trip down memory lane. And the life lesson of the film “no worry through the rest of your days” will have everyone singing and skipping to the tune of “Hakuna Matata.” This technological wonder is going to change how we view animated films especially as special effects/CGI continues to evolve. Don’t be surprised if one day audiences truly can’t tell what is real and what is computer generated. On an emotional level, THE LION KING does not live up to its predecessor but it is still very enjoyable and one can’t help but be entertained when watching the splendor of what the new age of moviemaking can trick us into believing.

THE LION KING opens July 19, 2019

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