Dog’s Movie House: “The Lion King” Roars With Spectacular Animation!
If the film has a potential fault it’s that it hews very closely to the 1994 animated film, so giving you the plot would be pretty much akin to recapping the original film. For those of you who haven’t seen the original film, the story concerns Mufasa, the literal king of the beasts in this case, and his son, the cub Simba who is heir to the throne. Unfortunately, manipulative brother Scar decides to stage a coup and sends little Simba into exile where as he grows up, must decide how best to honor his father’s memory and reclaim the throne.
If it sounds a little like “Hamlet” with animals, you wouldn’t be far off. In the case of the update, Favreau uses similar techniques used in his retelling of “The Jungle Book” a few years ago. This time the animation is damn near flawless, leading many to believe they might be watching a vivid documentary on the African plains.
Until the animals talk, that is.
While the animation is both groundbreaking and breathtaking in equal measure, it’s difficult to get photorealistic animals to properly express emotion on their faces. Fortunately a terrific voice cast picks up the slack. James Earl Jones is the only returning cast member as Mufasa, and his deep voice is as impressive (and emotive) as ever. Chiwetel Ejiofer is appropriately sly and scheming as Scar, while Donald Glover is a vast improvement over Broderick as the adult Simba. Props to John Oliver for making the avian major domo Zazu a comic highlight. John Kani and Beyoncé also due solid work in supporting roles.
But the MVPs of “The Lion King” are Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as, respectively, Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and warthog duo best known for bringing “Hakuna Matata” into the collective consciousness of moviegoers for the past quarter century. The song of course makes its appearance, but Eichner and Rogen are more than just a catchy tune here. Their comic talents are firmly on display as most of their dialogue as clearly and brilliantly improved. Eichner’s Timon is also a little more cynical here which actually makes the transition from heavy drama to lighter comedy work much better than in the original film. They even break the fourth wall a couple of times in ways that absolutely should not work, but do anyway.
Visually impressive with a surprising emotional kick, “The Lion King” proves to be much more than a soulless cash grab. It’s rousing entertainment of the highest order and is fun for the entire family. 4 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!