This year we have seen two Disney toons remake classics with Dumbo and Aladdin (Will Smith), The Lion King is the third to hit our cinemas and comes with a whooping big estimated budget of 250 million dollars. 25 years on from the original Jon Favreau’s view on directing the movie is “why reinvent the wheel”. A smart move as he sticks as closely to the story as possible. The film’s opening song announcing the birth of Simba is The Circle of Life, and Favreau has kept all the songs from the 1994 original, the opening is where we also see the power of CGI, using photo-realism the animals are in fact very life like.
The first words spoken in the film are from the resentment fuelled Scar (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor) “Life’s not fair,” he says, which sets the tone for his manipulative quest to kill Mufasa (James Earl Jones) become King and the young Simba’s (JD McCrary ) exile. Favreau’s The Lion King dishes up a huge dose of the sentimental, exploring more deeply the relationship between father and son, with the young lion idolising his father and bonding over stories Mufasa tells him about his ancestors and the cycles of nature. There are some good action scenes when the Young Simba has his first encounter with the hyenas.
The second half of the film is lighter, funnier than previous versions Seth Rogen plays Pumbaa, the flatulent warthog and Billy Eichner plays Timon, the wisecracking meerkat, both playing to their strengths, they are introduced when Mufasa dies and the young Simba is exiled and they take him in.
The Lion King is brought to life by an all star cast, James Earl Jones is the only member of the original cast and is an unrivalled Mufasa. Donald Glover is the adult Simba, with Beyoncé playing the grown up Nala. Beyoncé lends her impressive vocals to Can You Feel the Love Tonight which is performed with Glover. Her vocal performance is not only what impresses us, her scenes with Simba’s mother, Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) merit credit.
Favreau introduces a bit of girl power as the lionesses group together to fight the hyenas and King Scar ( Scar has taken the throne after Mufasa’s death), Sarabi refuses to stand by his side. It been a while since I watched any version of The Lion King and would say once it gets started it is a thoroughly enjoyable family remake: there are some scenes which might not be suited to a very young audience but an enchanting take which infuses CGI technology to make it a little different visually, but authentic. The Lion King is in UK cinemas from 19 July 2019.