Lion King Review – Go See The Timon & Pumbaa Show
Walking into The Lion King for a late Thursday night show, I heard a grumbling 20-something coming out.
“That film was so unnecessary,” said the patron, no doubt talking about the photo-realistic reboot. Of course, this concerned me. After all — even before the film hit theaters — numerous critics spilled many gigabytes writing about the new Disney movie; about the uncanny valley, the spot-on story beats in comparison to the animated original, etc.
However, I need not have been worried. The ground-breaking cinematography and realistic animation should initially be enjoyed on a big screen – I plan to see it again in 3D. Moreover, the film retains enough of the original to remain relevant to die-hard fans, but it also adds enough in lore and laughter to be very necessary to the overall legend.
Adding To The Legend?
It’s a heady legend, as recounted in the official press notes:
Disney’s “The Lion King,” directed by Jon Favreau, journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is fraught with betrayal, tragedy, and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
“It’s such a beloved property,” says Favreau. “Disney has had tremendous success with the original animated version and then the Broadway musical. I knew that I had to be very careful with it; felt a tremendous responsibility not to screw it up. I wanted to demonstrate that we could be respecƞ ul of the source material while bringing it to life using mind-blowing techniques and technologies.
”Widely considered an animated masterpiece, beloved by fans worldwide, Disney’s 1994 classic “The Lion King” won Academy Awards® for the original song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (Elton John, Tim Rice) and original score (Hans Zimmer). In 1997, the stage production inspired by the film made its Broadway debut, subsequently winning six Tony Awards®; 22 years later, it remains one of Broadway’s biggest hits, recently marking its 9,000th show.
Missing the Point?
Most who’ve attempted an opinion about the current show, especially a negative one, had focused on “why do this thing again without doing anything new?” question (which occurs to me is the exact opposite opinion of most fan critiques of major reboots – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, etc. – but I digress). There’s plenty new here, but it will take a discerning eye to see the homages, beats, and extra bits.
New viewers, especially those “unburdened” with memories of the classic, will be blown away by the sheer scope and beauty of this experiment. However, I will caution those looking to recapture the wonder and innocence of the original, will come away looking to re-watch their white-boxed VHS tapes. Despite the CGI, this Lion King, much like the excellent Jungle Book reboot from a few years ago, inhabits a much more real world.
Certainly, there is fun to be had. However, there are significant physical and philosophical conflicts that consistently stretch the PG rating. As such, sensitive children (and their parents) should stick to the animated version for a few more years, inasmuch as the brutality — which included no blood (?) — had this 44-year-old father of three pleased he left is 9 and 7-year-olds home.
Now, if they could package the parts including Timon and Pumbaa (Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan’s respective characters), that would be a winner for kids and parents, with even the fart jokes hitting a high comedic chord.
Is It A Classic?
I guess that would be my biggest critique of The Lion King; there is a missed opportunity here.
The eye-popping photo-realistic presentation was an entirely new perspective. Perhaps the critics AND the fans could have been placated by slightly shifting the focus. With, say, the warthog and meerkat telling the tale from their hilarious point-of-view; allowing the familiar story to unfold without the Shakespearean chorus overshadowing the more significant players and eliminating the weight of expectation created by the beat-by-beat reboot.
Oh, Donald Glover (Simba), Beyonce (Nala), and James Earl Jones (Mufasa) et al. were excellent – Ms. Knowles-Carter, in particular, was underused. But none could steal the show away from Rogan and Eichner. Their appearance mid-way through gave the film a needed kick in the pants; it engendered a “heart” that the first minutes of the movie lacked.
So, yeah. Go see The Lion King. Leave the expectations of necessity or “new-classic” at home. Get a diet coke to get through the first half and then enjoy the ride piloted by Timon and Pumbaa.