The Lion King
Similar to his visually gorgeous cash-grab adaptation of The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau’s The Lion King remake struggles to justify its existence beyond a showcase of cutting-edge technology and easy, nostalgia-driven profits for Disney.
Using CGI animals, the film hits all the story beats of the 1994 animated classic with minimal variance, and though the casting of a predominately black vocal cast is a welcome touch, it’s tough to engage with the characters’ barely expressive faces and, sadly, most of the performances.
Similar to The Jungle Book offering the one-two punch of Bill Murray singing “Bare Necessities” and Christopher Walken’s take on “I Wanna Be Like You,” there are two reasons to see The Lion King — Timon and Pumbaa. Voiced by the fantastic duo of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, naturals for their respective parts, the independent meerkat and warthog earn steady laughs through witty banter that’s blessedly been updated for modern audiences.
Unfortunately, their laudable efforts are in the service of what’s otherwise a retread, and one that — like the anthropomorphic inanimate objects in the live-action Beauty and the Beast — are frequently less engaging in their slick modern forms. The high number of nighttime scenes that lack the clarifying definition of animation are particularly troubling and form a strong argument that the effects still need a decent amount of work.
Maleficent aside, like all of the live-action/GCI Disney remakes, The Lion King offers far too few new narrative elements as it takes pre-sold viewers through the story’s comforting motions with distraction aid from the company’s new computer-based toys.
That the advanced tech isn’t being used to tell original stories, however, is a crime punishable by hyenas.
Grade: C-minus. Rated PG. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande, and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)