The Lion King (2019)

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

For those keeping track, it has been 25 years since the release of the groundbreaking coming-of-age animated classic, The Lion King. Disney announced in 2016 that the celebrated film would be taken back to the Pride Lands of Africa and given the same live-action retreading that has happened to many of their most beloved films. With Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau directing an all-star cast to help in the reimagining of the beloved children’s story and despite the blasé reaction at the announcement, this will inevitably allow the Mouse House to roar at the box office even more. 

It is hard to imagine that there would be anyone who was not familiar with the tale of Mufasa (James Earl Jones), Nola (Beyonce) and Simba (Donald Glover), but it may have been some time since audiences dusted off the VHS to watch the film. The setting is in the beautiful plains of Africa and the newly crowned prince has been born in amongst the animal kingdom, Simba is blessed by Rafiki (John Kani), the local spiritual leader, and acknowledged as the future king. Through a series of events that were orchestrated by his vengeful and manipulating uncle, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the young lion cub is banished from the Pride Lands after the death of his father. 

With Scar at the head of the newly established pride of lions and hyenas, the once robust and beautiful land goes to ruin. While Simba manages to grow up and develop a different philosophy of life under the tutelage of his new friends and outcasts, the irreverent meerkat, Timon (Billy Eichner) and the jovial and supportive warthog, Pumba (Seth Rogan). As he plays in the beautiful land on the other side of the desert, Nola goes searching for food and help with the dire situation in their homeland and happens upon her long-lost playmate. Upon this discovery, Simba must determine if he will face his past and return home and take his rightful place as king or remain with his newest friends and sing Hakuna Matata. 

Favreau proves that he and his production team are the masters of photorealistic computer-animation by bringing the African plains to life on the big screen. The detail and realistic rendering prove to be mesmerising and jaw-dropping to see, even though it is still difficult to make the animals convincing when they speak. For the animation purists of the world, there should be a celebration of the painstaking effort made to do virtually every scene frame by frame. There are new scripting twists that do update the storyline, but the vast majority of the film stays true to the original narrative.

By honouring the 1994 masterwork, the film will satisfy the Disney faithful, but does lead to some of the weaknesses within the film. What proved to be majestic and captivating 25 years ago in the opening animated sequences becomes a rather dull first act in its pseudo-live action interpretation. This could have been remedied by the fresh new voice talent for this version, but the slow and methodical entry caused many in our screening to lose interest until the action-packed second act.

Glover, Eichner and Rogan did give the film a lift and delivered some of the best drama and humour in the movie. The overarching musical talent of the current cast does provide lovely renditions of the familiar soundtrack. Unfortunately, Beyonce was somewhat underwhelming in her vocal performance and the production team did fail to capture the power of Mufasa’s voice and presence in the newest outing. 

What should parents know about The Lion King? Overall, this will be an excellent option for families over the holiday season. The visuals are stunning and the story should capture the hearts of a new generation of Disney fans. Even though it is a pale comparison to the original, it is worth seeing in theatres and should encourage every parent to get out the first instalment and watch it again with their children. Which would mean that the film has come full circle in its life cycle and will be a favourite for many this year. 

REEL DIALOGUE: What is the value of a parent?

There is nothing quite like the love of a parent. Even in the worst of experiences, the love, support and hug from your father or mother should have a soothing effect on your very existence. It is hard to imagine that this could be depicted in an animated film, but it is all over The Lion King. The death of Mufasa does provide a glimpse into the value of family, but at the heart of this story is the essential need for the love, forgiveness and acceptance of a parent. This relationship can come in the form of blood relations, a blended family or through adoption and shows that no price can be put on the importance of parents in the life of a child. Have you told your parents how much they mean to you today? 

Questions

1. What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)

2. What should we do in difficult times? (John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7)

3. What does the Bible say about family? (John 15:12-17)