Genre: Family Adventure Comedy Animation
Starring: Matthew Broderick (Project X • Election), Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune • Dead Ringers)
Directed By: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff (Open Season)
Overview: The next heir to the land, Simba, is born. He learns from his father Mufasa that one day he will grown up to be King. Scar, Mufasa's brother, however, has his conniving eyes on the throne as well.
The Lion King is not a musical, but it is a children's movie, and being such, music is required, I suppose. Luckily, film is a medium people can easily compartmentalize into flavourful chunks while leaving the trimmed fat on the side of their brain-plate. In my case, I'll give the lion's share of my praise to the story and comedy, and leave the musical filler under the napkin, thank you very much.
As expected, the story is a classic, comfortably predictable three act of Destiny, Exile and Justice. We begin with the birth of cute little lion cub Simba, born to King Mufasa. As he grows up, his father teaches Simba valuable life lessons that the heir to the throne of the savanna shall need to know. Through it all is Scar, Mufasa's gangley, conniving, jealous brother and his pack of hyenas plot to steal the crown. When Scar's plan is put into motion - and it is indeed a wonderful scene to behold - Simba is able to free himself from the grip of death and flee. Enter the coming of age tale and a relatively simple trek to the story's end.
Of the six songs featured in The Lion King, most of them were tolerable, but "I Just Can't Wait to be King" felt to me like nails on a ribcage, while my favourite song, the old "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" originally made famous by The Tokens in the 60s, was cut short far too soon. Sung off key by meerkat Timon and with much humorous high-pitched accompaniment by Pumbaa the warthog, it was a scant two-minute musical high point.
The film is filled with great scenes. The heinous hyena introduction scene at the elephant's graveyard is golden, as is the wildebeest stampede, our villain and his accoutrement of hyenas taking over the pride, all terrifically well done. The overall comedy was genuinely impressive, but nothing was so impressive as the prolific cast of voice actors. Nathan Lane (Stuart Little • The Producers) as Timon is absolutely fantastic. Having a Star Wars context to James Earl Jones lends a weight of authority to his role as as King Mufasa. Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeremy Irons, all perfect casting choices. Ironically, I found Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick to be the weakest selections for the voice casting as the young and adult Simba, but that's my hang up.
All told, The Lion King is a solid little film, and if you don't have the initial 'resistance of the mature adult' hovering over your head at the thought of watching a children's film, you might just find yourself enjoying an evening in.
Nah, I ain't gonna make some pussy joke.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 7 Mood: 7
Overall Rating: 78% (I Ain't Lion)
I'm a dark bastard and stories like this one just aren't my general bag. Lucky for me, I was able to screen this with a friend who includes The Lion King in her repertoire of 'childhood-nostalgia-can-watch-it-into-the-dirt' films. My 'tough audience' hard-line was definitely softened by her genuine appreciation and drilled-into-her-cortex photogenic familiarity on the subject.
Frankly, it's a lot easier to mock the girl sitting on the couch with you when she sings the worst song of the movie. You don't need a sharp wit when it's so easily served up on a plate for you. The down side was that I got a double dose of said song, so I puked in my mouth a little.