Is the new take on the classic Disney “The Lion King” worth a date night? YES!
This stunning CGI reboot of the classic Disney hand-drawn cartoon is a wonder to behold. First, it’s an entertaining trip back to childhood memories of the original. But it’s also entertaining on its own terms as a brilliant artistic achievement. It’s got everything: thrills, laughs and a dash of romance.
There is no greater king in the family-entertainment world these days than Disney. The family-entertainment behemoth has snapped up everything from Marvel superhero films to the Muppets. It even owns the “Star Wars” universe and 20th Century Fox. Then factor in Pixar, the ABC television network, ESPN and the nationwide Radio Disney network. There doesn’t seem to be a single overlooked opportunity to shake down families for their money.
But two years ago, they indeed opened another vault by deciding to bring their line-drawn animated classics to CGI or actual real life. They started with a live-action reboot of “Beauty and the Beast.” That movie brought in well over a billion dollars worldwide. Since then, they’ve followed suit with this summer’s smash live-action take on “Aladdin.” They flew to just middling success with “Dumbo.”
But now, Disney is poised to make their biggest hit yet in the new genre with this weekend’s release of the CGI version of “The Lion King.”
“The Lion King” world brought to photo-realistic life
The new film is directed by Jon Favreau. He scored hugely with his 2016 live-action/CGI hybrid of “The Jungle Book.” Now, “The Lion King” appears to bring its African setting to stunning life, despite the fact it’s entirely crafted on computer screens.
The new version opens with an African woman’s voice singing the classic opening song “Circle of Life.” The song replaces songwriter Elton John’s version in the original. But it’s effective in making it clear that this version strives to be more realistic on the voice-over level as well.
The film follows the same basic story as the original. However, it gives the story room to breathe with an extra half-hour of running time.
It follows young lion cub Simba (Donald Glover), who is announced as the future heir to the throne of his father Mufasa. Simba wants to grow up fast. He takes the advice of his evil uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor). This leads to a visit to the elephant graveyard over the horizon with his best friend and future mate Nala (Beyonce), despite his father’s telling him it’s a forbidden zone.
Mufasa has to save the young pair from an attack by hyenas. Yet later, Simba follows Scar’s bad advice again and practices his roar in a canyon that echoes. The noise prompts a stampede of cows being chased by evil hyenas again. When Mufasa is endangered while trying to save his son, Scar causes his death in a vicious betrayal and then convinces Simba that he’s at fault instead.
Simba runs away in shame for many years. He teams up with new duo of irresponsible friends named Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and Timon (Billy Eichner). They try to convince him that the happiest way to live is by shirking all responsibilities.
But when Nala finds him years later while seeking help to rid the kingdom of Scar, Simba is forced to take a stand that carries a great deal of consequences.
“The Lion King” you know and love, but with deeper themes and better action
The new film follows the story-line of the 1994 original closely. However, you’ll be delighted with the added depth to the characters. The film provides the time needed to make its impressive action sequences achieve maximum impact.
This is a movie that audiences can experience as a fun time but also have plenty to discuss afterwards. That makes it a perfect date night movie!
Yet, there’s plenty of great comic relief with Rogen and Eichner perfectly filling in the roles of the mischievous Pumbaa and Timon. You’ll also enjoy John Oliver taking on the wise bird Zazu.
In a perfect nod to the original cartoon, James Earl Jones reprises the role of Mufasa. He perhaps gives the character even more regal class and fury than he managed to perform a quarter-century ago.
It’s almost impossible to find anything wrong with the film, continuing the Disney brand’s tradition of technical perfection matched with a heartfelt tale.
Disney may have a glut of product in the marketplace, but they take the time to make their films at the highest possible level and audiences are ultimately the winners.