REVIEW: ‘The Lion King’ is a Perfect Balance of Old and New

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Disney’s The Lion King (2019) takes the traditional themes of family, coming-of-age, and good vs. evil from its 1994 original animation and updates them for a modern film that younger generations will get to experience for the first time. It’s a perfect balance of original and new that brings together both an older and younger audience. In a time of turmoil, this film is a must see for all ages and a good refresher to get back to our roots of knowing who we are.

Having James Earl Jones reprise his role of Mufasa was the highlight of the film. It felt so right to have him pass on this version of The Lion King to the next generation of fans. Jones has the perfect voice to command attention without asking for it. His tone adds to the importance of the life lessons Mufasa is trying to impart on Simba (JD McCrary). Of course, it made Mufasa’s death just as heartbreaking as the original version.

In addition, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Scar was absolutely stunning. Scar is a cunning and manipulative lion and Ejiofor does a great job of harnessing that natural prowess. He blurs the lines of genuinely liking Simba and wanting him out of the picture altogether. Scar is the master of lies and Ejiofor has the silver tongue to deliver them.

While The Lion King had an all-star cast with Donald Glover as Simba and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, it was Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) that stole the show. They bounced off of each other with ease and offered great comedic relief during tense moments that didn’t feel overdone.

Eichner’s Timon was a great mix of keeping the traditional character alive while adding the Billy Eichner flare. He was perfect to play Timon. Rogan’s performance as Pumbaa was just as fun, too. His raspy voice gave a whole new personality to Pumbaa and had me cheering him on in the climax of the film. Plus, both Rogan and Eichner’s routine of “Hakuna Matata” paid homage to the original song while keeping it unique to themselves. Ultimately, they knocked it out of the park.

To update the film, John Oliverr’s performance as Zazu helped steer The Lion King into the new era with fun jokes about “tweeting” the news in Mufasa’s kingdom and the harrowing dangers of telling the truth in Scar’s . The irony of having Oliver – who is known for his HBO series Last Week Tonight – as a source of news in the film added a sense of reality to a fictional political uprising. While the eyes will be rolling at more political references in Disney films, it’s important to show a younger generation the dangers of hiding the truth. We are Mufasa passing down the future to our Simba and truth is vital to that story.

It’s the circle of life and, with these live action remakes on the horizon, we are passing down a torch to future generations about the lessons we grew up with when we were kids. Many of us related to Simba’s frustration of responsibility when we sat through the 1994 version of The Lion King.

As adults, we can watch this live action remake with the eyes of Mufasa and the understanding that everything we do affects those around us. There are lessons to be learned about our own destinies and how each of us fit in this world. But there is one lesson that The Lion King taught us as kids and that the live action urges us to carry as adults: remember who you are.

The Lion King is a beautiful film with stunning effects. The cinematography has visuals that make you feel like you are in Mufasa’s kingdom experiencing the adventures of Simba right alongside him. Each performance balanced traditional characters with originality to create a masterpiece that is worthy of its predecessor. It’s a film that will make you want to watch the original Lion King while still appreciating the live action remake.

Disney’s The Lion King is in theaters July 18.

Rating: 9/10

Images from Disney