Billed as a "photorealistic computer-animated musical drama film," The Lion King, the latest Disney remake, takes the 1994 animated film of the same name and turns it into what is essentially a nature film with talking animals. It's a strange approach that doesn't work particularly well, especially since the animals are so expressionless when they deliver their lines that it's hard to tell exactly what they're feeling. While the original film made a natural transition to Broadway, this rendition of the movie has little going for it.
The movie opens areawide on Friday.
The plot remains unchanged. King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) wants his son Simba (Donald Glover) to inherit his kingdom and tries to teach him how to govern fairly. Simba, of course, doesn't listen to his father and falls under the spell of Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), his egotistical and manipulative uncle.
When Mufasa dies during a stampede, Scar convinces Simba that it's his fault and that he should leave the Pride Lands and never come back. Simba takes his advice and departs, meeting the carefree warthog Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and the meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) along the way. Scar takes control of the Pride Lands and upsets the natural order of things by letting the hyenas run amuck.
Eventually Simba has to face the realization that he needs to return and reclaim the throne, something he knows his mother Sarabi (Alfre Woodward) and his childhood friend Nala (Beyonce Knowles-Carter) would both want him to do.
The voice actors here all turn in nuanced performances, and the soundtrack includes all the terrific Elton John/Tim Rice compositions, as well as some new solid tunes, but it's just too hard to get used to the nature film-like visuals. — Jeff Niesel