In the past I have moaned a lot about the sheer number of remakes, reboots and unnecessary sequels that are being churned out at the moment, and it seems that Disney are one of the worst culprits. The thing is, as frustrated as I am by this fact, I, along with everyone else, will trudge along to my local cinema and watch whatever Disney decide to put in front of me because, if nothing else, it is a nice relaxing form of escapism.
The live-action remake of The Lion King is the third of four planned remakes this year alone, although the release of The Lady and the Tramp will only be available to those who subscribe to the new Disney+ channel. FYI, the other two are Dumbo and Aladdin.
I will admit that I did feel a lot happier about this film when I found out that Jon Favreau was going to be directing, especially as he did such a good job on the Jungle Book remake back in 2016.
As with The Jungle Book and Beauty & the Beast, The Lion King is pretty much a shot-for-shot hyper realistic copy of the original, which works pretty well for me. It’s when they start messing with, or expanding upon the originals that I have a problem. Mr Burton, take note!
For those of you who don’t know, or if you just want a quick refresher, The Lion King tells the story of Simba, a fearless but naïve lion cub prince who ‘just can’t wait to be king’. Simba (JD McCrary) is tricked by his treacherous uncle, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) into believing he caused the death of the King, his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and flees from the pride in shame, leaving Scar to rule the kingdom instead. As an adult, Simba (Donald Glover) must face the demons of his past, overthrow his uncle and take up his rightful place as King.
Although I am still a little worried about all these remakes undermining the work and skill involved in animation, I have to admit that the hyper-realistic CGI was absolutely stunning to watch. There were certain sequences throughout that felt as though they were taken straight from a nature documentary, in fact, at times I was half expecting David Attenborough to start narrating, which is a testament to the beauty and skill of some scenes.
The film also features a strong star-studded ensemble cast including the likes of Alfre Woodard (Sarabi), John Oliver (Zazu) and Beyoncé (Adult Nala). James Earl Jones reprises his role in the original, as the deep, commanding voice of Mufasa, but let’s be honest I’m not sure who else could have possibly replaced him.
As well as Mufasa, for me, there were two other roles that were important to get right, my personal favourites, the unlikely comedy duo Timon and Pumbaa, played by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen respectively, and I’ll tell you what, they have absolutely nailed it. First off, I think Seth Rogen was born to play the lovable warthog, his unique voice fits the role perfectly and his goofy personality shines through.
Of course, having Pumbaa with Timon is like having popcorn without a movie, okay on their own but so much better together, and Eichner’s suitably sassy depiction of the wise-cracking meerkat just puts you in a happy place. Their rendition of ‘Hakuna Matata’ did justice to the original but it was their little nod to Beauty and the Beast which was the icing on the cake for me.
Talking of musical numbers, many of our old favourites are there, with the inclusion of some new and improved songs. Personally, I really enjoyed ‘Hakuna Matata’ but none of the others really lived up to the standards set by the original movie. At the risk of losing some followers, particularly those who worship Beyoncé, but I felt as though she hindered the music rather than helping to elevate it, particularly during the key song, ‘Can you feel the love tonight’. In my opinion, her vocals overpowered the duet which caused it to lose the harmony and union that it is supposed to represent. Although she did hit the mark with new song, ‘Spirit’.
Overall, this was a really nice way to wile away an afternoon and has eased some of my rising scepticism of the overwhelming trend of remaking, rebooting and rehashing family favourites. So if you are looking for something to do with the kids during the holidays, a trip to the cinema should definitely be on the cards, just don’t forget the popcorn.