Remaking a classic poses extreme risks. Viewers will ultimately compare the current vision to the original offering, and it will lead to some positive as well as negative results. With Disney remaking the classic 1994 animated offering of The Lion King, the risks are great, but the rewards include opening the story for a new generation of viewers and bringing in a whole big bucket of cash.
The plot stays true to the original. Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones) stands as the leader with young Simba set to one day inherit his father’s kingdom. But trouble is brewing as Mufasa’s brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has his sights on the throne. The only way he can ascend to the top is by getting rid of both Mufasa and Simba. And that is exactly what he does.
During his time of self-imposed exile, Simba grows from a young cub to an adult lion (Donald Glover). He meets two crazy sidekicks in Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and lives apart from his friends and family.
When a lion chases the plump and juicy Pumbaa, Simba quickly realizes that the predator is none other than his best friend from childhood, Nala (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter). Although she had been searching for food for her friends in the land Scar has decimated, when she finds her long-lost friend Simba, Nala’s focus turns to convincing Simba to return and challenge Scar for the throne, but can she get him back in time?
The voice cast lends their talents to the tale and puts a stamp on the musical offerings that fans will want to add to their library. Lion King fans already have the classic soundtrack along with the Broadway recording, and now this effort will have the songs they love resonating throughout the day. Visually the film is stunning. From the opening sequences of the action, you are almost led to believe that these are real animals with real fur in real landscapes. But that beauty tends to get dampened by the moments of dialogue, as there are times that the mouths of the animals seemed a tad off-putting.
My other problem with this film is the magical feeling is not quite as magical as it was with the traditional animation. The problem stems from the film trying to be too serious, as fight sequences feel more real and less a fun distraction.
This is a different film from the original rendition, and comparing it to anything else would be unfair. Director Jon Favreau’s film is darker and more dramatic but still offers a smattering of lighter moments alongside the cherished music featuring a slightly refreshed sound.
Although not as magical as I would have hoped, the current film is a solid addition to the tapestry of all things Lion King, and any fan of that total package needs to check it out. And though the film is far from perfect, my answer to the question of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” is, “Hakuna Matata” — despite the serious nature of the film, you will be entertained.
The Lion King (2019) is available On Demand and on DVD beginning Oct. 22. Check your cable system for availability.