Review - The Lion King

The Lion King follows the adventures of Simba (voice of JD McCrary/Donald Glover), a young lion who takes his royal destiny of ruling Pride Rock to heart; wanting to be brave like his father, Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones). Unfortunately, not everyone in the kingdom holds the same aspirations. Scar (voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor), Mufasa’s brother, has his own plans to become king by luring father and son into a stampede of wildebeests. Betrayal, tragedy and drama all intertwine, resulting in Simba running away from his home with no intention to return. Now, with the help of newfound friends, Simba must remember who he is meant to be and take back what is rightfully his.

It feels weird to call The Lion King a live action adaptation when in reality it’s another animated version, only authentic looking this time. The problem, animals can not emote in the same way people or 2D animated characters can. This creates a divide and ultimately makes it hard to see the animal and voice as a singular entity. In fact, the animals are so close to being realistic that it’s almost uncomfortable to hear them talk and sing. While the film is technically brilliant and visually appealing, providing a much-needed glow to the classic tale, it struggles to hold onto the beloved sentiment of the original.

The new pleasing renditions of “Hakuna Matata,” “I Just Can't Wait to Be King,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” share the same magic as the timeless classics. But, audiences may have difficulty appreciating small differences between the two films.

Timon (voice of Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (voice of Seth Rogan) were the heroes needed to bring life back into the film, stealing the show from everyone else. Even with some of the classic banter from the 1994 movie being removed to make place for jokes only a contemporary audience would understand, these characters were inspired. And there is a cheeky moment paying tribute to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, something not unfamiliar to casts of The Lion King stage musical which has previously incorporated Easter eggs like Zazu singing “Let It Go” from Frozen during its performances. That aside, they bring light at the perfect moment, when the movie finds itself being swallowed by a pit of darkness.

I honestly enjoyed the faux live action adaptation of The Lion King, but I will be returning to the original in order to satisfy my future rewatching needs. If my critique is dissuading you, don’t let it, nostalgia and the breathtaking photorealism is still reason to go see it. This looks like one of the best nature documentaries to ever exist. That is, when the animals aren’t talking and you momentarily forget it’s still animation.