Feels Like the First Time: Disney's The Lion King Rekindles Magic of Original

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The Lion King 2019

Disney made a name for itself in the film industry by plumbing the depths of folk and fairy tales. These days, Disney has found a new path to the box office, by mining the depths of Disney itself. It sounds a bit like an ouroboris, the mythical snake that eats its own tail. But, surprisingly, it's been working, and this latest outing is no exception -- in fact, it probably surpasses all previous live-action remakes of animated classics.

"Live-action" is a bit of a misnomer in this instance, as THE LION KING is, by any definition, an animated movie. But seen on the big screen, it's almost easier to believe that the magicians at Disney actually taught animals to sing than it is to believe you're looking at bits-and-bytes in a computer. Every character, from the smallest grub to the largest elephant is rendered with exquisite realism. Within moments of the opening scenes, you feel justified in having bought the ticket for a story that you expect to be a scene-for-scene recreation of a classic.

However, the film does deviate in a number of places from the original. Not drastically; nothing from the main plot changes. It's the smaller stuff that's a bit more nuanced. There's a line in the iconic "Hakuna Matata" that gets changed from the original, and acknowledges it to the audience. In fact, as with the original, Timon (BILLY EICHNER) and Pumbaa (SETH ROGEN) steal the show, this time with asides and winks that evoke plenty of positive laughs from the theater.

Perhaps the largest change comes with the character of Shenzi (FLORENCE KASUMBA), the female hyena. Whereas in the original Shenzi was relegated to the role of henchman to Scar (voiced here by CHIWETEL EJIOFOR), putting her on equal standing with the other hyenas, here she is presented as an alpha, and a far more dangerous enemy to the pridelands.

HAKUNA MATATA: Simba (JD McCrary), Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), and Timon (Billy Eichner) have no worries in Disney's remake of THE LION KING.

But other than that, the story is the same (and still just as evocative of KIMBA, THE WHITE LION): Young Simba (JD MCCRARY) can't wait to be king so that people stop telling him what he can't do. But when his father, Mufasa (JAMES EARL JONES), is killed saving him from a stampede, Scar guilts him into feeling responsible, so that the young lion runs away rather than face the perceived consequences. This leave Scar next in line to the throne and, with the aid of the hyenas backing him up, begins to over-hunt the pridelands and shifting the delicate balance of the circle of life.

Simba, meanwhile, finds refuge with Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog, adopting their philosophy of Hakuna Matata -- "No Worries" -- as a way to put the past behind him. But he can't run from his future, and eventually the adult Simba (DONALD GLOVER) is going to have to discover who he really is and live up to his responsibilities as the one, true king.

Featuring fantastic renditions of the original soundtrack and some mind-blowing cinematography, THE LION KING is destined to become king of the box office this weekend

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0