THE LION KING (2019)

The Lion King (2019) movie poster
Ruler of the Pride Rock animal kingdom, King Mufasa (the voice of James Earl Jones) needs to train his young son Simba (voiced by JD McCrary) to someday rule. But the young heir is more interested in exploring and having fun with his female friend Nala ( the voice of Shahadi Wright Joseph). But tragedy strikes thanks to Mufasa's treacherous brother Scar (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Simba is forced into exile. Gaining new friends warthog Pumbaa (the voice of Seth Rogen) and meerkat Timon (voiced by Billy Eichner), the young prince grows up with no worries. When the adult Nala (the voice of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) escapes the harsh rule of Scar and his vicious band of hyenas, she finds the grown and carefree Simba (voiced by Donald Glover). Now he must face his responsibilities, defeat his uncle and become the rightful king.

The 1994 animated masterpiece gets an imposing makeover. The story and characters are the same, yet the look is different. Replacing the enchanting
traditional animation is jaw-dropping realism that the studio refers to as "photo real" - a blending of modern technologies that includes VR. It's not live-action, but without the talking animals it could easily pass as a nature documentary. Much of the credit goes to producer/director Jon Favreau, taking a break from acting (Iron Man's sidekick Happy Hogan), along with his talented technical crew and a mostly African American vocal cast. James Earl Jones once again provides the commanding voice of Mufasa. Besides those mentioned in the first paragraph, Alfre Woodard is heard as Simba's mother Sarabi and Keegan-Michael Key voices hyena Kamari. Most of the lighter moments come courtesy of Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as Pumbaa and Timon. Also delivering laughs is John Oliver as Zazu, the nervous red-billed hornbill who is the King's majordomo. Composer Hans Zimmer returns to enhance his majestic score. The unforgettable songs, like "Circle of Life" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", by Elton John and Tim Rice get wondrously reworked. New tunes include the Beyoncé contribution "Spirit" and the John/Rice penned "Never Too Late" (sung over the end credits by Elton). Jeff Nathanson's screenplay only lightly touches on the Simba/Nala romance, but doesn't stray far from the original - although it's 30 minutes longer. The landscapes and creatures are spectacular. Astounding visuals rule in this new version of "The Lion King". (3/5 CAMS)

Rated PG (for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements)
Running Time: 118 minutes


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