Surprisingly, it had more than just the bare necessities. The voice performances (a menacing Idris Elba, a regal Ben Kingsley, and a singing Christopher Walken) were just top-notch. Bring the kids.
(Originally published April 10, 2016.)
• Excellent (proper term: hyperrealistic) visual effects reminiscent of The Jungle Book. I watched this in 3D/4DX and I was always close to pissing my pants whenever there were close-ups of Scar and the hyenas. It felt like I was in a safari tour where our bus had no protective grills. Loved the wildebeests stampede, though. (Parents, you might want to reconsider bringing your really young kids.)
• Although I didn’t have problems with all the talking, the lack of emotions was more evident during the singing parts. The expected magic of the musical numbers got zapped out of them due to the limitations. The “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” sequence mostly involved a lot of running. “Be Prepared” sounded like a series of chants. The only bit that worked was “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” that served as a theme during a montage and didn’t really involve much of Simba and Nala overtly singing. (Would this remake have worked better without the song numbers? Hmmm…)
• Loved Donald Glover’s voice as Simba, but I was even more impressed with Billy Eichner as Timon. I eagerly waited for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and it didn’t disappoint. Seth Rogen was also a great choice as Pumbaa. Plus, James Earl Jones is James Earl Jones.
• A bit disappointed that Timon didn’t don a hula skirt, but they more than made up for it with that hilarious “Be Our Guest” bit and the #NoToBodyShaming scene.
• I really liked how it addressed (sometimes mocked) some of the minor misses (?) in the original: when Scar didn’t knock down Zazu when he was supposed to tell the tribe about the stampede, that Pumbaa and Timon didn’t age at all during the “Hakuna Matata” montage (where we finally heard the word farted!!), etc.
• Shenzi as the leader of the hyena pack? Nala getting more scenes proving that she’s a worthy future Queen? And that glorious showdown between them? Now that was an awesome display of girl power that didn’t even need a lame original song (yes, looking at you Jasmine 2019).
• Missed Ed. I loved Ed in the original.
• Did we really need a lot of those extended sequences? The rat that Scar was supposed to have for lunch had an incredibly long screen time. And that entire fur flying sequence (although a good display of the circle of life) felt like forever (and reminded me of Forrest Gump’s feather).
• I completely lost it when Simba and Nala’s baby was raised during the end and somebody screamed, “Blue Ivy!!”. Now that’s the power of Beyonce’s spirit.