The Lion King
Recently I was discussing this bleak season of summer movies with a friend and we both shared the same complaint; movies aren’t funny anymore. Not to say I didn’t cackle at Chris Evans’ saying “that is America’s ass” but the bar is on the floor for Marvel movies for me. (Hulk dabbing though? Come on guys) But for the most part, movies this summer as a whole haven’t felt particularly funny, which isn’t necessarily the end all be all of a movie’s value but when the humor is missing, it’s noticeable.
The Lion King is the most I’ve laughed in a theater this summer. It’s not even close. I wish I could explain to you how damn delightful Billy Eichner’s Timon and Seth Rogen’s Pumba are in this film but every minute they weren’t on the screen I found myself asking “WHERE’S TIMON?” while my eyes glazed over and I remembered that lions were fighting and I should probably be paying attention. Not that this movie couldn’t keep my attention, it’s just that I’ve seen this movie before. A bunch of times. And the only thing that felt new and fresh was Timon and Pumba.
And that’s the thing about these remakes—you’ve got to find something to justify retelling this story. Make no mistake, this The Lion King is a shot-for-shot remake of the 1994 original. Some minor details were changed, Scar’s creepy musical number “Be Prepared” is oddly condensed and less of a song and dance and more of a riveting speech, for one. But the jokes were punched up by the, and I cannot stress this enough, absolute knock out performance of Eichner to make the comedy relief duo of Timon and Pumba feel more current. Same for John Oliver’s Zazu, another stand out if it didn’t at times feel like a segment of Last Week Tonight where the host is fired up about Lion news.
I was less impressed with Donald Glover as Simba, if only because Glover is a little sleepy at times and Beyonce is Beyonce I can’t legally criticize anything she’s ever done or will do because it’s BEYONCE. She’s actually, laws aside, a very warm and lovely Nala and her voice can’t be matched. I may have missed Jeremy Irons’ slivering cadence as Scar but Chiwetel Ejiofor did make Scar a little less jazzy and a little more “oh holy shit this lion sucks” in a different but equally effective way. And his henchman of Hyenas provided more comic relief from Eric Andre, Keegan Michael-Key and Florence Kasumba.
All of that is to say this movie is jaw dropping to look at. You cannot tell me those weren’t real lions. I won’t believe you. I’m fully under the impression there’s a whole land of talking animals in Africa and I’m dedicating my life to finding it. It is magnificent. It is visually stunning. It is the most unique of the live action slate so far. That’s not to say at some points it wasn’t a little jarring—when the lions spoke it was cool but when they sang it looked…bananas at times.
The full-aliveness of it all does make the emotional moments you’re still in therapy over as a child that much more brutal to watch. At least that’s what I heard after the film from my friend since my eyes were tightly shut and my ears were properly plugged when Mufasa did that thing (are we spoiler alert for 25 year old movies?) I have a soft spot in my heart for animals, you might have heard. Would it scare a younger audience? I don’t know kids these days and the internet I feel like they’re exposed to more adult subjects like “parental death” than we were so maybe they won’t be as traumatized. The songs are still tremendously catchy and fun and the animals are, let’s face it, too cute to not love so it’s definitely a kid-friendly good time that adults who grew up saying “Hakuna Matata” will probably love just as much if not more.
Disney – Director Jon Favreau’s all-new “The Lion King” journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. The all-star cast includes Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon. Utilizing pioneering filmmaking techniques to bring treasured characters to life in a whole new way, Disney’s “The Lion King” roars into theaters on July 19, 2019.