By now, we should all know the story of The Lion King and all the songs by heart backward. I myself can actually quote the first twenty-ish minutes of the original animated film, with voices, after ‘The Circle Of Life’. But for those of you who don’t, The Lion King is about a young, headstrong prince, who dreams of becoming king but doesn’t understand what the role entails. After his uncle (spoiler alert) kills his father, he is tricked into believing it was his fault. Scared and ashamed, the young prince runs away and runs into two outcasts. They teach him a different way of life and for however many years, he lives it. But the past never stays in the past, and the young prince confronts his uncle for the throne (or rock).
Disney pulled out all the stops trying to make this film as good, if not better than the animated classic. Jon Favreau, after his success with the 2016 reimagining of The Jungle Book, would direct and produce the film. Disney would even cast amazing talent in Donald Glover (Simba), Beyonce (Nala) John Oliver (Zazu) Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), Billy Eichner (Timon), John Kani (Rafiki) and the legendary James Earl Jones (Mufasa).
The problem with this movie, among many, is that it follows the original animated film nearly to the T. The writers don’t necessarily add anything new to the script other than a handful of new characters, changed lines, and a couple of scenes. There’s nothing added to the story that made the animated classic one of the greatest films of all time.
The biggest problem that I have with this film is that they traded the animated film’s expression-filled characters for realism. Don’t get me wrong, except for Pumbaa, the characters are gorgeous. Pumbaa is straight nightmare fuel, and not even Seth Rogen’s charming voice and laugh will distract you from it. Another issue with the photo-realism is that animal mouths weren’t designed to talk, so it’s a little awkward trying to watch Simba (JD McCrary) sing ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’.
Let me be clear, I’m not bashing the film, it’s great. It’s the little things about this film that make it fall short of the glory that is the animated classic.