Monday, August 5, 2019

The Lion King (2019) - Movie Review

The Movie: The Lion King

The Director: Jon Favreau

The Cast: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones

The Story: Hakuna Matata and the circle of life.

The Review:
I had so much fun watching this movie. Even with a photo realistic CGI design, it still had most of the same feel and emotion of the cartoon version we all know and love. Is it as good? To me that's not a fair question because it doesn't come with all the built in history, nostalgia, and intimate knowledge of every frame of animated joy so I refuse to consciously compare the two. That being said, my brain couldn't help but compare the two while I was watching although the context I created was to absorb how well they adapted each of those iconic scenes both in their similarities and their differences.

Jon Favreau's version of one of my all time favorite animated features is nearly a shot for shot recreation that adapts the look and feel while also subtly altering each character's dialog to fit the voice actors' personalities and to freshen things up a bit as well. The biggest and most positive impact I saw in this regard was with the ever lovable Timon and Pumba who, this time around, were voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen respectively. They were perfectly brilliant together and elevated their characters to an even higher level of gut busting hilarity than ever before. The one returning voice is of course James Earl Jones as Mufasa because seriously no one else could ever be Mufasa. I get chills just typing his name.

It's also important to note the overall quality and diversity of the casting with names like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, John Kani, and Beyoncé leading the way.

The story, of course is pretty much the same with a few maneuverings here and there, some to benefit the story and some to brings things up to a more current state of mind and dare I say it political correctness. Yes, that phrase is loaded with opinion and is a fence that people firmly stand on either side of but rest assured, there are no agendas and no political leanings of any kind so hakuna matata.

One of the the things that was most interesting about my personal experience with the film is that, yes there were emotions, but the most impactful scenes were the ones where Mufasa and Simba shared time together to bond as father and son. The animated version has always been a major touchstone for me because it came out shortly after my father had passed away and I guess it being so long ago that I have seen him, watching the two interact in screen made me cherish and yearn for those same moments that I had with my dad. Yes, there were tears and I let them exist unimpeded and without hesitation.

Have you seen the Broadway version of The Lion King? Are you familiar with the He Lives in You musical number that appeared there after being cut from the animated version. I feel like a huge opportunity to get this back into the feature was missed by not including it and I can guarantee it would have been one of the biggest moments and one of the biggest emotional hits of the the entire movie. While I was in no way expecting it, I was holding out hope that it might make an appearance. This is a more personal critique for me but one I feel is valid nonetheless.

Have I mentioned yet how stunningly beautiful this movie is? Seriously, if you do not watch this on a big movie theater screen then you are doing yourself a major disservice. I really could care less how fancy your home theater is, you will never actually get the full effect of this film unless you go see it in a proper viewing format such as IMAX or here in Seattle we have the heavenly confines of the Cinerama movie theater. Please do not deprive yourself of such a wonderful visual treat, I promise you it's worth every penny and every moment that you soak in will be pure justification.

The Lion King is an achievement that I thoroughly enjoyed. Yes, it's a remake, yes it doesn't look like the cartoon, yes it will never compare to all the wonderful memories you have built up spending time with what is likely one of your favorite all time movies and I get that. I'm in the same boat. This movie is a very personal experience for many reasons both good and bad and it will resonate in different ways with every single person. Ultimately one thing stands true. The King has returned.

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