Dir; Jon Favreau. Starring; Donald Glover, Beyonce, CGI Animals. PG. Color. 118 min.
What a happiness-empty children’s film this is. When did “The Lion King” turn into the next installment of a trilogy created by Christopher Nolan? Why is director Jon Favreau and the rest of the crew ‘so serious’? This latest “LIVE ACTION” remake in the Disney pantheon has all of the production quality and absolutely zero pizzaz from the heart. I never thought that I would say this, but can somebody please call Jonathan Taylor Thomas (from ‘Home Improvement’) to see if he’s available because Donald Glover stinks.
I will not bore with the details we already know. “The Lion King”, and I stress from 1994, is one of the all time great children’s films and summer event movies. At the time the highest box office grossing animated film in history. So a lot to live up to. Unfortunately the re-do does not live, it just exists.
Of course we begin with the sun coming up over the African safari with the “Circle of Life” blasting and we’re off to the races. Then a series of, admittedly, beautiful drone shots over the African landscape with life like CGI animals takes place. There are moments when it is hard to tell if these talking creatures on screen are actually real or not because they are so perfectly crafted. And there in lies the biggest problem. They spent a lot of time making things look clean.
This is one of the most precisely made movies in recent memory. No complaints there. But as an experience compared to the original or the popular broadway musical with performers engaging the audience this story told here is on life support. At no point does it feel like they even want to engage us. This can be seen early on with the number “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” in which the filming feels more like a documentary and less of a vibrant onscreen musical number with silly shots of animals running over a bird named Zazu because things like that can only be achieved in animation. In fact the new Zazu, voiced by John Oliver, is the only one having fun instead of being concerned how much money this has to make.
It does not stop there. In the 1994 original you had three hyenas voiced by Whoopi Gholberg, Cheece Marin and the silly idiot known as ‘Ed’ whom all played around committing wacky hijinks. In this remake you get this menacing group of wild animal hyenas, none of which stand out. It is like watching robots. Why so serious? The same goes with the lead villain Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor). He has the menace down pat, especially when he kills Mufasa (James Earl Jones, what else is he doing). The element missing is the edge of witty sarcasm Jeremy Irons brought in the original.
Maybe it’s just me, as well as billions of other people around the world, but the jam “Hakuna-Mata” is universally loved for its care free sense of acceptance. In this new version you get none of that. Dare I say, can we please get a solid fart joke people! Replacing Nathan Lane as Timon with Billy Eichner is a huge downgrade. I get it, two gay actors so let’s stay politically correct. Yet the difference between a legendary performer on the screen and on broadway opposed to a comedian who’s schtick is yelling at people is pretty obvious. Seth Rogen as Pumba is also a complete miscast. His stoner laugh is even more annoying in animated form.
Why did I say animated instead of live action? Because this movie is animated no matter how many interviews Jon Favreau does talking about the struggles of working with lions. Sure you did buddy.
The one iconic number I’ll give them is “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. It is well done and having Beyonce showing off her vocal chords certainly helps. In fact the music throughout the film is a highlight with a solid combination of sticking to the original while infusing some fresh takes on old favorites and newer tunes. Too bad the visuals accompanying are dormant.
And of course our favorite monkey Rafiki (John Kani) shows up, convinces Simba to do the right thing and the climactic battle for pride rock ensues. Once again, such a lifeless sequence. The surreal lion versus hyena throw down worked so much better the first go around.
These Disney remakes are getting worse and “The Lion King” is a culmination of uselessness. The original was a cornerstone of my childhood along with many Disney classics. So was reading comic books. It is funny how the world evolves with the best movies for kids today being based on comic books and the former classic cartoons have become some of the biggest wastes of money for a family outing over the summer.
Suck Factor: 5out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!