The Lion King
Director: Jon Favreau
Writers: Jeff Nathanson
Stars: James Earl Jones, Beyonce, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amy Sedaris
Think back to the best steak you’ve ever had. Delicious, succulent, medium-rare steak, maybe with some asparagus and a baked potato from some fancy restaurant. Now think of the best Hamburger you’ve ever had. All juicy and yummy with cheese and other classic toppings with a side of the best crispy french fries you’ve ever had. Both amazing. Both meat. There’s a reason for both, right? So why is it then that people don’t see the value in a realistic looking remake of The Lion King?
Now look, to be fair… The above metaphor doesn’t really work in this case since I never really loved the original 1994 beloved animated Disney classic, and I didn’t love the new remake directed by Jon Favreau, who also made the much better The Jungle Book live action remake a few years back. But I think my point still stands… There’s no reason both versions can’t exist, and there is value in seeing 100% true to life animals acting and singing.
The problem with The Lion King comes down to it not really being the best story to remake in the first place. The would-be future king of the jungle getting tricked into exile by his uncle Skar, only to return and save the day after learning some lessons about life along the way is so incredibly basic, and our hero Simba is such an annoying protagonist, it makes it a little hard to want to stick around. It doesn’t help that for all Favreau’s undeniable visual flair, he decided to up the running time from just under 90 minutes to over 2 hours, with not much of anything of substance added in the process.
The voice cast all feel like they’re phoning it in as well, save for stand-out comedic performances from Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as Pumba and Timon. Donald Glover, who I normally love, feels especially out of place as grown up Simba. Close your eyes and you can almost see Glover’s Earn character from Atlanta just bluntly delivering his lines with no added lion flavor. It’s just him.
But back to the reason we’re here… The visual effects are gorgeous. Yes you can argue it’s not “live action” since it’s all CGI. But you sure can’t tell. It looks like acting animals in real environments 99% of the time. Yes it can also be argued that real animals can’t emote like cartoon characters… But again, that’s not the point. We’re here for real animals. It’s like a National Geographic nature documentary but with a story.
So The Lion King remake is here. Most people complained about it for one reason or another, but it’s already made a bazillion dollars, and it basically did what it set out to do. If you are on board with what Favreau and Disney were attempting, it’s worth seeing on the biggest screen possible… Even if the story is way more basic than most of us remember. And if you’re not up for realistic animals acting out this classic story… Well your animated original still exists. Go enjoy it.
Puzzle Pieces if we had done an episode: The Lion King (1994), The Jungle Book (2016)