Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Review: " The Lion King" Still Rules the Pride Lands

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2019) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

The Lion King (2019)
Running time: 118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – PG for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
WRITER: Jeff Nathanson (based on the 1994 story written by Brenda Chapman and characters created by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton)
PRODUCERS: Jon Favreau, Karen Gilchrist, and Jeffrey Silver
EDITORS: Adam Gerstel and Mark Livolsi
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer
SONGS: Elton John and Tim Rice and Beyoncé

FANTASY/DRAMA/FAMILY with elements of comedy

Starring:  (voices) Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones, John Oliver, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, JD McCary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Keegan Michael-Key, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Amy Sedaris, Chance Bennett (Chance the Rapper), Phil LeMarr, J. Lee, and Josh McCrary

The Lion King is a 2019 musical, fantasy-drama film directed by Jon Favreau and released Walt Disney Pictures.  It is a live-action remake of the 1994, Oscar-winning, animated film, The Lion King.  The Lion King 2019 focuses on a young lion prince who flees his kingdom after the death of his father, which he blames on himself.

The Lion King opens in the Pride Lands of Africa.  From his perch on Pride Rock, King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) leads a pride of lions and rules over the animal kingdom.  As the story begins, Queen Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) has given birth to a cub, Simba, who will one day succeed his father as king.  Simba (JD McCary) is a playful cub and enjoys romping with his best friend and future love interest, a lioness named Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph).  Simba, however, is also a willful cub, so Mufasa must guide and prepare Simba for the day when he will rule.

Meanwhile, Mufasa’s younger brother, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), lurks in the shadows, bitter that he is not king, and he plots with a pack of hyenas to murder Mufasa.  After tragedy strikes, Simba leaves the Pride Lands, intending never to return.  Years later, an adult Simba (Donald Glover) lives in exile, and his constant companions are a meerkat, Timon (Billy Eichner), and a warthog, Pumbaa (Seth Rogen).  However, Simba’s past returns in the form of an old friend,  Now, Simba must learn the true meaning of responsibility and bravery as he is forced to make important decisions about both his future and that of the Pride Lands.

The Lion King works better as an animated feature film than it does as a live-action film.  Still, The Lion King the live-action film is quite entertaining.  I think that many of Walt Disney's classic animated films need a retelling every two or three generations, and it was time for The Lion King to be retold for a new generation or two.  [No, I have never seen The Lion King the musical that was first staged in 1997 and won the Tony Award for “Best Musical.”]

The Lion King 2019 may be an inferior (but not especially inferior) work to The Lion King 1994, but director Jon Favreau and his visual effects collaborators present a visual spectacular.  When the story lags, which it does a few times, the bounding animals and the Pride Lands, with its seemingly infinite variety of environments, will grab your wandering imagination and pull you back into the story.

The animals, which, I am assuming, are mostly computer-generated and rendered, are dazzling in their photo-realism.  I find Scar to be the most impressive, looking not to lean, not to dirty, but clearly a bit raggedy, which goes great with his conniving ways and with his feelings of bitterness and envy.

The voice performances are good.  JD McCary and Shahadi Wright Joseph, who voice the young Simba and Nala respectively, are exceptionally good.  If The Lion King 2019 has star performers, they are McCary and Ms. Joseph; they give this film the energy it needs to carry it to the rousing finale.  These young performers assure that The Lion King 2019 keeps the heart of its story – learning the meaning of being responsible, accountable, and brave.

7 of 10
B+

Sunday, July 21, 2019


The text is copyright © 2019 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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