Tony's Take

THE LION KING review

It Is Time

Disney’s universally-beloved animated masterpiece took the World by storm in 1994.  25 years later, Jon Favreau is able to utilize the most stunning technology on the planet to give us a photo-realistic version of the timeless classic, “The Lion King”.  The film opens as the animals are gathered around Pride Rock, as Rafiki (John Kani) anoints the newly-born future King, Simba (JD McCrary), with his parents Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) nearby.  As we watch Simba grow, and his friendship with his best friend Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph), he is eager to take over for his father.  As the ultimate tragedy strikes, Simba is forced away as his uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) becomes King of the Pride Lands.  Raised by a small meerkat named Timon (Billy Eichner) and a warthog named Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), Simba has completely forgotten his former life.  Until Nala stumbles-upon him in the jungle as his help his needed to save what is left of the Pride Lands.

Many people revere “The Lion King” as one of their childhood favorites or even as their favorite film of all time, so Disney and Jon Favreau had a lot to live-up to.  When it comes to the voice cast, they knocked it out of the park!  Eichner and Rogen absolutely steal the show as Timon and Pumbaa, as they play-off each other with effortless perfection and provide so much witty and charming humor; much of it a new addition.  Ejiofor, Beyoncé, and Donald Glover are also fantastic in their roles, as well as John Oliver, Kani, and the legendary James Earl Jones.  A stellar all-star voice cast lineup, cemented by the legacy that was set in 1994 with Jones reprising his role.  The visuals of “The Lion King” are truly wondrous.  The photo-realistic images are visually-stunning and awe-inspiring; they truly represent a shift in the future and are an absolute game changer!  The animals show a certain innocence on their faces and you can see the raw emotions in the details of their eyes.  The landscape showcases the beauty of Africa, as we dive deeper into the Pride Lands than ever before.

While the music is one of the aspects that sets-apart “The Lion King” from the rest of Disney’s catalog, Hans Zimmer returns to fine-tune his remarkable work that put him on the map 25 years ago, including most of your favorite songs from the film!  While the visuals, voice work, and music are all there, something else seems to be missing.  The film packs an emotional punch, but it seems weakened this time around.  This version’s tone is a little darker, which is sure to frustrate some of the diehard fans of the original.  However, I appreciate Favreau not just delivering a shot-by-shot remake; he made the film his own by allowing Eichner and Rogen creative freedom and giving Nala a larger, more-expanded role through Beyoncé’s voice.  The film also does feel a little long at 118 minutes, especially as the “show-off sequences” show just how real the film looks.  I just felt that Favreau did a great job literally bringing these characters alive and giving us a very fun and entertaining adventure.  While “The Lion King” is surely not perfect, there is certainly a lot more to appreciate than to despise; and that is an excellent achievement when you’re on hallowed grounds!

“The Lion King” didn’t necessarily need a re-telling, but this visual-masterpiece has a ton of fun reliving the story in vivid detail and the voice cast elevates the film entirely.  It is a cinematic experience that will entertain the whole family and is a truly groundbreaking spectacle.  If you are taking the family to see “The Lion King”, be sure to see it in the largest and clearest format possible!     

 4/5

THE LION KING is rated PG for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements, in theaters JULY 19TH!