Film Review: The Lion King

Film Review: The Lion King

Disney’s latest photo-realistic remake “is full of adventure and is just as sweetly engaging,” writes Caryn James.

With its mythic story of life and death, not to mention a cast of lions and hyenas, The Lion King was an unlikely candidate for a photo-realistic treatment. But the new film leaps into naturalism, with dazzling authenticity as computer-generated herds of zebras, elephants and antelope stride across the screen against a wide African vista, toward Pride Rock, where King Mufasa stands waiting to hold up his cub, Simba. With The Circle of Life soaring in the background, this majestic scene draws us into the film’s enthralling world before a word is spoken. It may all be CGI, but The Lion King feels more life-like than Disney’s many recent live-action remakes of its animated classics.

The opening scene echoes the start of the 1994 original almost shot for shot. It doesn’t take a detective to see why that film quickly became a classic. It has adorable animals and rivals Bambi in its moving death of a parent storyline. Elton John and Tim Rice’s original songs are so buoyant and stirring, they are now as familiar as anything from The Sound of Music.

Jon Favreau’s film is funnier than the original, even while it enhances the story’s dark themes. It adds a couple of helpful scenes and two ordinary songs. For all that, it doesn’t stray far from the classic. This is not a visionary, artistic reimagining as the Broadway version was. There, director Julie Taymor brilliantly added more African-infused music, masks and fantastical giant puppets. This film, however, is a cautious remake which takes its cue from its life-like visuals.

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