I’m not against the live-action remakes of classic Disney films. Aladdin, back in May, actually surprised me by how good it was. Dumbo was adorable. Beauty and the Beast had enough of a spin on the story, showing us new sides to characters we already loved. Jungle Book was exceptionally new. The upcoming Mulan looks more like a historical drama than it does a Disney movie. But The Lion King remake…it has nothing different to say.
The Animation is King in Lion King Remake
Also, The Lion King isn’t a live-action remake. It’s an animated film, just freakishly detailed, like a Pixar film but with an infusion of Jurassic World magic. So, we’re not even getting LION KING IN LIVE ACTION, we’re getting LION KING IN RENDERED CGI! Now, the movie is objectively beautiful. The animals looked incredibly real…which made some of the musical numbers awkward, actually. Imagine watching Planet Earth and the animals break into song. That’s The Lion King remake.
The Comedy Duo Meant to Be
For the first act of the movie, cute kitten Simba is adorable, but we’re still going “okay, seen this.” Then the sad part comes and it transitions into act two, where we meet the legendary Pumbaa and Timone, voiced by Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner. Here’s the amazing thing about these two—they still basically say almost 100% of the same lines as Emie Sabella and Nathan Lane did in the 1994 original, but they deliver them differently enough so you’re still laughing at the jokes. Billy Eichner’s voice also sounded delightfully strange coming out of meerkat’s face. It might not be enough to make The Lion King remake worthy of existence, but it’s something.
The Lion King Remake Gets Artsy and Crap (Literally)
So, if you’re wondering why the film is a bit longer than the original, it’s mostly because we linger on settings, or follow a mouse for a few minutes before Scar tries to eat it. They’re nice little moments that show off the animation for the most part. Until we get to Simba’s fur, and The Lion King remake goes just a step too far. Remember when Simba is depressed, talking about stars with his buddies, and a piece of his mane floats off and all the way to Rafiki? Well, if you wanted the complete, harrowing journey of that piece of fur, Favreau gives it to us.
First, we see the fur go from the wind to the rivers to a bird making its nest, and it’s inspiring. Until it isn’t. From the nest, it falls gracefully onto a branch, where it’s EATEN BY A GIRAFFE. Now, at first, you’re like “oh, plot twist! How is Rafiki going to find Simba if he doesn’t have a minuscule piece of fur that traveled like a hundred miles?” But no. The only new thing we get is seeing a beetle pushing a turd. And in that turd is the fur, which the beetle frees when it breaks the turd apart to eat. It’s a beautifully animated turd. But, yeah, it’s a turd.
And that’s the best way to sum up what the “live-action” Lion King remake is—a beautifully rendered turd.
Grade: Not MY Lion King
Oh, yes, Beyonce and Donald Glover are in this. It should tell you something that I watched The Lion King remake ten minutes ago and I already forgot.
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.