The Lion King 2019 Movie Review

Disney’s new version of The Lion King hits theaters July 19, 25 years after the animated movie was first released. And you’ll be dazzled by this Disney remake!

The Lion King, Pride Rock

The Lion King, Pride Rock

Admittedly, I went to an early screening of The Lion King with certain reservations about it. Nostalgia was inevitable since we’d been huge fans of the original animated movie when our kids were young.  Also, since I’ve been somewhat disappointed with some of the live-action remakes of Disney’s beloved movies like “Mary Poppins,” “Aladdin,” and “Dumbo,” my expectations were low for this one.

My fears about this movie not living up to the original started to fade as the first impressive scene appeared on screen. As soon as Disney’s photo-realistic technology replicated the animated movie’s iconic opening scene, with the familiar song “Circle of Life” playing in the background, I was hooked!

As the movie went through the first sequence, the crisp and practically perfect animation immediately grabbed my attention. What fascinated me about “The Lion King” 2019 was how real everything looked. It was especially mesmerizing to see the photo-realism of the animals; the fur, the eyes, their paws and muscle movement were incredibly true-to-life. Simba’s eyes were very tender and convincing. The young cub is adorable!

To some degree, this latest version of The Lion King played it safe and didn’t deviate from the original movie. So, there’s not much to add (or spoil) about the movie’s plot except to say that it remained faithful to the original with a few minor updates to the script. It was comforting to know the dialogue and the plot. I could practically recite the lines. LOL!

Though the movie is beautiful to look at, I did have a few problems with it. First off, I had a little trouble adapting to Scar’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) voice. I kept expecting to hear Jeremy Irons’ voice since Mufasa’s voice in this remake is provided by the original voice-over actor, James Earl Jones. I also felt that Zazu, voiced by John Oliver, was too understated. I was looking forward to more sassiness from the comedian, yet he sounded restrained. Another significant change I noticed was Rafiki, voiced by John Kani. He was practically mute in this version. The hyenas were not as funny as in the original movie either.

On the other hand, I thought Pumbaa was perfectly cast with Seth Rogen providing the voice.  The warthog is also one of the animals that I found completely convincing. The rest of the voice cast was stellar: Donald Glover (Adult Simba), Beyonce (Adult Nala) , and Billy Eichner (Timon) were all very good in these new roles.

Obviously, this movie had big paws to fill. “The Lion King” was first released in 1994, and is considered one of the only original stories (not based on a prior story) of the 10 movies that make up the Disney Renaissance. It is the highest grossing movie of the Disney Renaissance collection, and spawned direct-to-DVD sequels plus a successful Broadway musical.

The Disney Renaissance is a period from 1989 to 1999 when Disney re-imagined traditional fairy tales and folk stories and turned them into epic and timeless musicals.  The movies of this era are: “The Little Mermaid,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “Hercules,” “Tarzan,” “Pocahontas,” “The Rescuers Down Under,” and “Mulan.” (The latter is the next movie to get the live-action treatment set be released in March of 2020). All but “Rescuers Down Under” won an Academy Award.

The Lion King Voice Cast

The Lion King Voice Cast

“The Lion King” wasn’t an easy challenge to re-conquer, but the technology and animation software is at a point that it allowed talented Disney animators to create something truly, visually stunning. This photo-realistic version of the classic movie fit the caliber of the precious material director Jon Favreau had to work with, and did the movie justice.

A little word of caution, though. Since the quality of the photo-realism is so, well, real, there are some dark scenes that might be too scary for young children. Also, the sound is very good. We watched it in Dolby Cinema and the sound reverberated in our plush seats!

The Lion King

Release Date July 19, 2019

Rated PG

Runtime 1 hour and 58 minutes

 

 

 

 

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