Review: The Lion King (2019)

Director: Jon Favreau
Screenwriter: Jeff Nathanson
Starring: (voices of) Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen, Beyonce
Genres: Animation, Children/Family
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements
Release Dates: 7/19/19 (Wide Theatrical); 10/11/19 (Disc/Streaming)
Where to Watch: Disney+
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%

I had put off seeing this new version — is it really a remake? — of The Lion King, as I didn’t want to have to compare it to the original, which was one of the first movies I saw in the theater. I have long loved the animated film, and due to mediocre (at best) reviews of Jon Favreau’s 2019 version, I was reluctant. Plus, did I really want to watch Mufasa die again?

Favreau (who we can thank for helping to jumpstart the MCU) and his team have crafted a visually spectacular film that, had no earlier version existed, it would’ve stood on its own just fine. The songs are as beautiful as ever, although I couldn’t help but have the original voices in my head. Yet, most of the new [with the exception of James Earl Jones] cast members do the best to make the roles their own. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, as Timon and Pumbaa, are especially hilarious and memorable. They are definitely the scene-stealers that many folks have made them out to be.

Donald Glover and Beyonce are perfectly fine as adult Simba and Nala, and they have a lovely “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” duet, but there’s nothing special about it. Chiwetel Ejiofor is terrifically menacing as Scar and it was a treat to hear Jones’ return as Mufasa. While Favreau’s The Lion King is not necessarily a beat-for-beat copycat of the original film, it is too similar to the animated classic to stand out on its own.

B-

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