Sunday, July 14, 2013

Movie Review: The Lion King

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Powerful story told with great songs, voice acting, and animation
Cons: Some sad parts to the plot
The Bottom Line
Still a great story
With amazing artistry
Worth seeing again

"Will I Like This Surprise?"  "Simba, It's to Die for."

After reviewing a couple of different products related to The Lion King recently, I was inspired to sit down and rewatch the movie.  I’ve got to admit it had been way too long since I had watched it, and I had forgotten just how good it is.

The movie revolves around Simba.  We are first introduced to him as a cub (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas).  He’s a typical youngster getting in trouble along with his friend Nala (Niketa Calame).  He has a very loving relationship with his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones).

Trouble is also in his family in the form of Scar (Jeremy Irons), Simba’s uncle.  Scar is plotting with the hyenas, led by Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings), to take over the kingdom.  This plot comes to fruition in a terrible tragedy, and Simba flees for his life, where he makes new friends with Timon and Pumba (Nathan Laneand Ernie Sabella0.  Will a grown up Simba (now voiced by Matthew Broderick) be able to reclaim his kingdom?

This movie has long been described as a riff on Hamlet, and I certainly can’t argue with that.  Of course, the details are very different, and I’m not just talking about the fact that our main characters are animals.

The tone of this film varies greatly.  There are some very sad parts, but this isn’t the first time an animated movie has dealt with some of these issues.  There are also some very funny parts, most noticeably thanks to Timon and Pumba.  Those two get all the best lines, but even Scar has some funny moments.

The animation is breathtaking at times, especially in the opening scene.  They’ve got camera focus adjustments to wonderful effect.  If you want to be reminded that animation can be an art form, this movie will do it for you.

Usually in a Disney film, I don’t have a hard time forgetting the actor behind the voice and getting lost in the characters.  This time, there are too many actors I know from other things to fully do that.  However, they still do a great job, and I am quickly lost in the story rooting for the characters to reach a happy ending.

And you can’t forget the music.  There are so many classic songs here from “Circle of Life” to “Hakuna Matata” and the Oscar winning “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”  I have listened to them so much I was singing along as I watched the movie this time around.

We didn’t know it then, but The Lion King would represent the pinnacle of Disney animation resurgence in the 1990’s.  Watching it now, it still entertains and impresses.  If you’ve never seen it or haven’t seen it for a while, fix that.  You won’t be disappointed.

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