It’s the Circle of Life. Any Disney animated classic will be made into what Disney calls a “live action” movie, and “The Lion King” is no different. This film is more CGI than live action, but it’s certainly not the animated version, even though it tries hard to be just that.
The crux of the original story is still there. Simba is a Lion cub who will one day be king who keeps finding trouble. Scar is jealous of his brother, Mufasa, and his nephew, Simba. Scar uses Simba’s affinity for finding trouble to his advantage, killing Mufasa, scaring Simba away and usurping the throne. Simba finds Timon and Pumbaa and adopts the Hakuna Matata life philosophy. Nala, one of the lionesses from Simba’s pride finds him. Simba eventually comes back taking his rightful place as king and removing Scar from power.
While the essence of the story is there, this version lacks heart. The animated version takes the viewer on an emotional toll. Even as a grown man, I cry like a baby when Scar kills Mufasa. While watching this version, I felt nothing. This was just part of the story and not an emotional hook. When Simba returns to take back his throne, there’s a sense of joy that he’s avenging his father’s death and removing the lion who emotionally manipulated him into fleeing. Again, this version didn’t make me feel that way. I felt no emotional connection to the characters. I don’t know if that was because of the CGI, or if it’s because lions don’t have the most emotive faces but I couldn’t have felt more emotionally disconnected.
Let’s talk about the cast for a minute. The smartest decision made here was the return of James Earl Jones as the voice of Mufasa. There are certain roles Jones must always play. He must always be the voice of Darth Vader and he must always be the voice of Mufasa. I, also, enjoyed Donald Glover as adult Simba. Glover is fountain of talent and he’s proven it as Troy Barnes in “Community,” as Lando Calrissian in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” even in his cameo in “Spider-man: Homecoming” and he proves it again here. John Oliver as Zazu and Seth Rogen as Pumbaa both gave solid performances.
The two I really couldn’t get behind were Billy Eichner as Timon and Beyoncé as adult Nala. Eichner is an acquired taste and one I haven’t seemed to have developed. I’ve never been entertained by his comedy and I wasn’t here. The entire time, I was wishing Jon Favreau has brought back Nathan Lane as Timon. Beyoncé is a talented singer with an amazing voice but I don’t feel like it translates to this film. Her duet with Glover was great but I didn’t care for the rest of her role. It wasn’t bad, it just did nothing for me.
All in all, the movie is not bad. It gets the story right, but it’s missing something. The best way I can describe it is when you hear a cover song and it’s structurally correct but it’s just not as good.
Ranking: 2.5 stars out of 5
What did you think of this version of “The Lion King?”