The Lion King (2019)

JON FAVREAU

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBUSA, 2019, Screenplay by , based on a story by and characters by , , Cinematography by Produced by , , Music by Production Design by Film Editing by , .  

The Disney corporation slots this retread of one of their biggest hits in among their live-action remakes of animated hits, categorizing it as a live-action film despite the fact that, improved technology aside, it’s as animated as the 1994 film was. Like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast before it, this one is also too long and lacks the capricious humour that made its predecessor so good, though unlike those two films the music department has at least kept its end up and the score and singing here are on par with the original movies. Once again we are treated to the birth of the adorable lion cub Simba (), whose father Mufasa is the king of the Pridelands (and is once again voiced by James Earl Jones, the only repeat performance in the film). As a child, Simba is obsessed with proving his bravery to his father to the point that he almost gets himself devoured by hyenas; when a trick by Mufasa’s conniving brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) gets the king killed, young Simba believes himself responsible and goes into exile, befriending a hilarious warthog () and meerkat () and growing to full adulthood while, back home, Scar turns his home territory into a wasteland. There is, thankfully, no plodding third-act addition to the narrative but there’s not nearly as much tension between the characters (possibly because most of the voice performances are weak, Ejiofor is particularly disappointing compared to Jeremy Irons’ performance in the original).  There’s a disadvantage to the dazzling perfection of the animals and landscapes, for while the environments are all convincing (you really feel like you’re looking at natural light most of the time), having lifelike animals also means having their stony faces and dead eyes:  Rogen and Eichner’s Pumbaa and Timon are superb updates of the original performances and their talent is wasted on images that can’t really express their humour. It’s a far more elegant movie than it needs to be, but diehard fans of the original might still enjoy the ride.

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