If you enjoyed the BBC's Planet Earth series, then you'll love Disney's remake of The Lion King. The film offers some stunning and realistic views of the African wild and detailed closeups of its star animals, each scene produced by a talented team of artists. But the artistry is one of few risks Disney takes in this new version of the 1994 classic. It stays very true to the original, and I think that's how (some) Disney audiences want it. For others, it will all seem pretty unnecessary.
First and most importantly, Director Jon Favreau's The Lion King will make you cry in all the places you're supposed to cry (Will we ever not cry when Mufasa dies?). A lot of that has to do with the music. The film does not dare mess with the original beloved soundtrack, only to add a couple tracks of its own. That includes a powerhouse ballad from Beyoncé, and, if you stay for the credits, a new tune from Sir Elton John. Overall, though, you'll wish you were listening to the original recordings.
The lifelike animation (which Favreau explains is not live action) may be a little unsettling for younger audiences, particularly the scenes with the hungry hyenas. A few parts may even make you jump, if you're as jumpy as I am. The cubs, though, are adorable.
Now for the cast. As Simba, the charismatic Donald Glover hits all the right notes. It's too bad he got relatively little dialogue. On the other hand, it was weird and honestly a bit distracting to hear Beyoncé's voice come out of a lion. You may forgive her when you hear her harmonize with Glover on a lovely version of, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."
The film is almost word-for-word the script of the animated movie, with the exception of the scenes with Timon and Pumba. Their banter is delightfully original. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen were well cast here and their chemistry is a standout in the film.
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Alfre Woodard were also riveting in their roles of Scar and Sarabi. The veteran actors are pros at emotionally emphasizing every syllable. I guess the only real issue I had was with Beyoncé.
So, should you see it? Well that depends which category you find yourself in. For die hard Mickey mousketeers who can't miss anything Disney does, I'd say yes. For the breathtaking visuals, too, it's worth a go. For people who just want to hear the new soundtrack, I'd suggest YouTube. For other The Lion King fans who think the original is not to be tampered with, just go find that old VHS! I find myself in the last category.
We give it a: C