The Lion King (2019)
When baboon Rafiki (voice of John Kani, "Black Panther's" T'Chaka) presents the cub, Simba (voice of JD McCrary), of King Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones returning to the role 25 years later) and his queen Sarabi (voice of Alfre Woodard) to the animals of Pride Rock, one member of the royal family is not present. Mufasa's vengeful and scheming brother Scar (voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor) forges a pact with the kingdom's enemy, hyena Shenzi (voice of Florence Kasumba), to lure Simba into the path of a wildebeest stampede as bait to kill Mufasa. He succeeds, but hyenas Kamari (Keegan-Michael Key) and Azizi (Eric Andre) fail to confirm Simba's death and years later his childhood friend Nala (voice of Shahadi Wright Joseph as cub, Beyoncé as lioness) lures him back from a life of hakuna matata to become "The Lion King."
Laura's Review: B-
Disney's brought back the filmmaking team behind its most artistically successful 'live action' remake, 2016's "The Jungle Book," to do the same for its most financially successful property. Director Jon Favreau, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and the Oscar winning effects team once again amaze with striking, photorealistic visuals, but the updated voice casting is hit and miss and an additional 22 minutes is unwarranted. Never as big a fan of the original as most, this remake went down just fine with me. Whether it was necessary or not is up for debate. The Shakespearean story hasn't been altered much. Simba crawls away from his beloved father's body, poisoned by Scar's attribution of guilt, only to be saved from a pack of vultures by warthog Pumbaa (voice of Seth Rogen, best in show) and meerkat Timon (voice of Billy Eichner) who introduce him to the concept of hakuna matata, a carefree life (the grieving cub falls in a little too quickly, a spot in the movie which could have used the padding). The fun-loving duo also metaphorically defang the lion, introducing him to a diet of grubs to keep their friends safe from the predator. A montage spans time, Simba growing from cub to adult (to be voiced by 'Atlanta's' Donald Glover). In perhaps the film's most beautifully conceived sequence, a tuft of Simba's fur is picked up by a bird, rolled into the ball being pushed by a dung beetle, then carried by an insect in a stream past Rafiki, who exults in recognizing it as belonging to the cub. Life back at Pride Rock has become bleak under Scar's rule, Sarabi's warning that he is over hunting going unheeded. At first resistant to Nala's pleas, Simba relents when hornbill Zazu (voice of a too recognizable John Oliver) shows him his father within him in a watering hole's reflection. You will marvel at the contrast between Mufasa and Scar, the former veined and muscular, the latter leaner and battle worn, both utterly convincing. But while Ejiofor gives his own interpretation of Scar, Jeremy Irons' original was just more villainous, more evil, more intimidating (Kasumba's Shenzi is more menacing). What is darker here are the landscapes, the hyenas' elephant graveyard sinister, the evolution of Pride Rock under Scar's rule more devastating. The songs remain the same, Favreau adding a cheeky reference to "Beauty and the Beast's" 'Be Our Guest' as well as a new Beyoncé song, 'Spirit' (she also covers 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight'). 2019's computer generated 'live action' version of "The Lion King" is the very definition of critic proof, but while others have found the film soulless, it is undeniably beautiful to look at and Seth Rogen as a farting warthog is almost worth the price of admission alone. Grade:
Robin's Review: B
The inhabitants of the Pride Land, under the benevolent rule of King Musafa (James Earl Jones), receive a royal gift – his newborn cub and heir, Simba. But, the king’s jealous and vengeful younger brother, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), has other plans for the little prince in “The Lion King.” While I enjoyed the computer-generated animated remake of the original “The Lion King (1994),” I do not think that the story actually needed to be retold - except for Disney to make a boat load of money with a brand new audience. I guess, in this world of corporate domination, that is reason enough. The story is almost a carbon copy of the 1994 original, changing from the traditional animation techniques of the past to the CGI extravaganza that now dominates the big-budget blockbusters today. I cannot say that you should watch the original instead of the remake – mainly because I have not seen the original, myself, since 1994 and do not really plan to any time soon. Still, this “The Lion King” is a tour-de-force of CG animation, much like director Jon Favreau’s earlier “The Jungle Book (2016).” I kept comparing the two films and realize that the 2016 movie, based on the Rudyard Kipling story, is a better tale with more sympathetic and fully realized characters. Here, though, my favorites are Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), the warthog, and Timon (Billy Eichner), the Meercat, providing the comic relief that the all too serious story needs. “The Lion King” reprises the original’s emphasis on “The Circle of Life” (and, I realize now, the filmmakers beat you over the head with that theme). Techs are, as expected, top notch and the story is entertaining, still.