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Featured Movie Reviews

The Lion King

Disney's current quest to turn all their animated classics into live-action films has seen some amazing blockbusters and a few bombs (I'm looking at you Dumbo).

You can't even call 2019's THE LION KING a live-action film as its something unto itself, a completely digitally rendered, photo realistic version of the original, classic 1994 cartoon.

When it gets the re-invention right, it's inspired film making. The opening "Circle of Life" sequence is the prime example, featuring countless species gathering to see Simba, the newborn prince of the pridelands.

Director Jon Favreau (Elf, Ironman) shows real guts in leaning in on his new technology, while also demonstrating respect for the source material.

His cast is stellar. James Earl Jones is back as Mufasa. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, Doctor Strange) is excellent as Scar, while Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner take over as Pumbaa and Timon. Their banter has been decidedly updated for 2019 and it gets better and better as it goes, eventually making you forget Nathan Lane & Ernie Sabella.

Newcomer JD McCrary is especially good voicing young Simba, and some of the loss and emotions here are the darkest in Disney's canon.

What the film lacks versus the original are inherent to showing real animals. Making them talk is one thing, but Favreau doesn't have them do anything else that they wouldn't do in real life. It leads to tense battles and confrontations, but the more "Disney" moments from the songs, with cartoon animals stacking themselves into the air etc are missing, leaving some of the visuals around the songs a little sleepy.

I would have also liked to see some of the songs from the stage version, especially "Endless Night" about the loss of Mustafa by his son, its the best moment in the play.

Regardless, it would be easy to nitpick when your adapting a revered classic for kids and their parents.

As a whole, this re-imagining is a home run, with some of the best visuals of the year and a never stagnant camera soaring you through incredible African vistas for nearly two hours.

Elton John and Tim Rice's songs will live on for generations, as will Hans Zimmer's score that surrounds them.

Whether you prefer them in their original animated version of this sleek, all digital incarnation is a matter of taste, but both are superb. Grossing over $1.6 Billion in 2019, it was one of the biggest hits of the year.

THE LION KING gets an A-.

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