THE LION KING

“The Lion King,” featuring the voices of James Earl Jones as Mufasa, and JD McCrary as Young Simba, is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 29, 2019.

The next in the long line of animated Disney films being transformed into live action films is “The Lion King.”

One of the most memorable films of my childhood was “The Lion King.” In a way, it is unfathomable and sacrilegious to even entertain the idea of remaking a film so beloved and perfect.

However, in 2019, everything is remade and nothing seems to be off limits.

“The Lion King” tells the very familiar story of Simba, a lion cub who idolizes his father, King Mufasa. Mufasa reigns over the animal kingdom around Pride Rock and Simba takes to heart his own royal destiny to rule the African plains.

Scar, Mufasa’s brother, the former heir to the throne, plans on removing Simba and Mufasa so he can become King.

Simba, his family, and the whole animal kingdom are soon ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile.

Simba must figure out how to take back what is rightfully his, all with a little help from some friends.

Jon Favreau directs this 2019 CGI-laden version of “The Lion King.” Computer-generated imagery has come a long way since the 1990s, and in the 2019 version of “The Lion King,” the CGI is out of this world.

To be honest, the CGI is the best part of the film. I found myself just trying to admire how realistic the animals look and see if I could find flaws.

“The Lion King” is near perfect in that regard.

There are a few who seem to dislike the more realistic versions of the lions and think that they “look funny” due to their elongated snouts.

I would urge them to look at actual pictures of lions and you can really see that “The Lion King” did a wonderful job.

However, one of the biggest downsides of the film comes from Favreau, who brings nothing new or even different to the remake

Favreau hits the high mark of every issue I have had with all these Disney live action remakes — the songs are shortened, the high points are exactly the same, they take no liberties to try to make the films better.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but hindsight is also helpful. The original animated version of “The Lion King” was great but it was not perfect and with a second chance, why not change what should be to seek perfection?

Favreau has over the years become the ultimate play-it-safe director. It is why he has directed two Disney live action reboots.

In 1994, animated movies were done a certain way and in 2019 even the landscape of animated movies has changed and that should be taken advantage of.

Instead of something new, the audience gets nearly a carbon copy of the original animated version, just with 2019 updated CGI animation.

It is not all bad for “The Lion King” though. It is the second best of all the Disney remakes to date. “The Lion King” is also far superior to the “Aladdin” film that was released earlier this year.

“Aladdin” had a world-building problem and it was lacking the very culture it took place in.

The world built in 2019’s version of “The Lion King” is nothing short of a spectacular rendition of the African prairie.

While there is little if anything new on the directorial side, the actors do add a depth that the original never had. No, maybe it is not a depth, but more like a breadth to the 2019 version of “The Lion King.”

The original animated version of “The Lion King” had great voices but most could be considered second-tier talent at that time.

Of course, voice work in 1994 was considered a step down for acting and it no longer is.

In 2019, “The Lion King” has some of the top talent in music and acting today.

Donald Glover is everything you would want out of Simba. He handles the emotion well and he handles the singing, all while adding a familiar voice to a beloved character.

Beyoncé plays Nala. Nala’s part is small but important, and although not an actor, Beyoncé does a wonderful job and her singing never overpowers the lead of the story, though it easily could.

Quite frankly, maybe it should have, but as I said earlier, Favreau didn’t change or tweak the story at all. I would have amped up Nala’s voice and role in the story.

Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner play the affable Timon and Pumba, who steal the show.

In 1994, Timon and Pumba were the most memorable and lovable characters in “The Lion King.” The same stays true in the 2019 version.

My favorite casting choice though is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. Ejiofor’s deep throaty voice is menacing, and gave my favorite song rendition. Ejiofor crushes it in Scar’s song “Be Prepared,” one of the best numbers of the film that even overshadows the Beyoncé and Glover duet of “Can you feel the love tonight.”

“The Circle of Life” is still one of the best openings and closings to a film ever, and completing that circle story-wise just gives both the original and the 2019 versions a fulfilling quality.

My favorite part of the entire film was the ode to “Cabaret.” It is small and somewhat subtle, but made my inner film nerd giggle.

“The Lion King” may not offer many new things, but it does offer a great version of the same things.

It has been nearly 25 years since I enjoyed “The Lion King.” The 2019 version may not be the same, but it makes the viewer feel the same, which is about as much as you can ask for out of a remake.

Especially in 2019, when studios remake everything and nearly every remake is subpar.

“The Lion King” took a lesson from a line in the song “Mein Herr” from the musical “Cabaret.”

That line is, “A tiger is a tiger, not a lamb.”

“The Lion King” took a certain remake tact to not change anything.

“The Lion King” is “The Lion King,” and maybe that is all it ever had to be.

IRATE SCORE: 3.5/5

Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at guyerj@eagletimes.com

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