With awe-inspiring visuals and a voice cast with giants including Beyonce, “The Lion King” live-action reimagining has enough firepower to match the original classic. Unfortunately, it ends up a more by-the-numbers blockbuster than anything else.
Based on the Disney animated classic, “The Lion King” tells the story of Simba, son of Mufasa, coming into his own as royalty on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates Simba and his arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother, has evil plans of his own. Soon a battle begins, full of betrayal and tragedy, resulting in Simba’s exile. But with aid from a pair of newfound friends, Simba must grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
With voice actors including Donald Glover, Beyonce, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner, “The Lion King” attempts to reintroduce the animal-centric story to a new generation. While it has fantastic CGI and a stacked voice cast, the film has a strange inability to do anything remotely different. It rehashes the same ground as the original, shot for shot.
This is disappointing, given that director Jon Favreau succeeded at reimagining “The Jungle Book” to be a bit more gritty while still having the heart and silliness that was so beloved in the original 1967 animated classic. “The Lion King” just struggles to have these artificial animals express emotion over death, happiness or drama.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its highlights, however. Eichner brings fresh charm to the wisecracking meerkat Timon. Eichner has a burst of energy in his scenes and provides needed comedic relief. His rapport with Rogen’s Pumba is fantastic and might just be as good as Nathan Lane’s original voice work.
He’s not the only bright spot. James Earl Jones returns to the iconic role of Mufasa and Chewitel Ejafor is menacing as Scar, even if he’s never as scary as Jeremy Irons was in the original. Glover and Beyonce are fine as Simba and Nala, and the duo has some unsurprisingly terrific moments singing together, with their most memorable moment coming from “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
Ultimately, “The Lion King” is a fine remake of the animated classic, it just sadly lacks a lot of the heart and depth of the original. If Disney continues to pump out live-action remakes, they need to find the proper balance of remaining faithful to the animated originals while also having some artistic freedom. Not everybody wants to see the same film twice.