Friday, December 27, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Lion King

The Lion King
Directed by Jon Favreau
Released July 19, 2019

Anyone who decides they want to remake a beloved movie should ask themselves one crucial question: is there a particular reason that a new iteration needs to be created? Fans of the original will surely be divided on whether or not an update is necessary, since some loyalists won’t want to have anything disrupt or disparage what they remember and love. When it comes to turning a fully animated production into a live-action film, the result will surely be visually different. Director Jon Favreau tried it a few years ago with “The Jungle Book,” and now he’s back at it again with another animated classic: “The Lion King.”

Young Simba (JD McCrary) yearns to experience all of the Pride Lands kingdom, which he will eventually inherit from his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Eager to dispose of the sibling he hates, the king’s vindictive brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) partners with hyenas to kill off both Mufasa and Simba so that he can take the throne. Simba manages to get away and grows to become a friendly adult lion (Donald Glover) thanks to the help and guidance of Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), who doesn’t realize the fate that has befallen his mother Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) and childhood best friend Nala (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter).

It’s only been twenty-five years since the release of the original film, as opposed to the almost fifty-year gap between the two versions of “The Jungle Book.” It’s not merely a shot-for-shot duplicate with CGI effects rather than hand-drawn animation, but instead one that updates the story slightly and changes up some of the familiar songs. Some scenes are discarded or extended, as this film clocks in at a full half-hour longer than the first one. The modifications are subtle enough in some cases and very noticeable in others, and there’s a different vividness that comes with experiencing this familiar story in live-action with gorgeous backdrops and stunning visuals.

The voice cast selected here is top-notch, with only Jones reprising his role as Mufasa. Selecting popular musicians like Glover and Knowles-Carter to play the leads is a strong choice, but the best decision comes in the form of Eichner, known for his yelly game show “Billy on the Street,” and Rogen, who writes, produces, and stars in comedy movies, who make a superb duo and enliven the already entertaining Timon and Pumbaa’s every scene. Ejiofor and Woodard are also excellent in their respective roles. The visual effects are truly astounding, and even though the two Oscar-shortlisted original songs, played over scenes rather than sung by characters, don’t hold a candle to the tunes composed for the original film, this remake feels totally worthwhile. It’s a perfect successor to Favreau’s “The Jungle Book,” an example of how to try something again in a new way and really do it right.


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