Thursday, July 25, 2019

Hakuna Matata

The Lion King 
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Beyonce, Seth Rogen, John Oliver, Billy Eichner, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Released: July 19, 2019
Viewed in theaters: July 23, 2019

When I first saw the trailer for this, which I think was released way back in November, I was really excited for it because it looked amazing and so realistic, and of course, the animated 1994 Lion King is a beloved Disney movie. (I did roll my eyes, however, when I saw Beyonce was in the cast. It felt like they only cast her to make sure they bring in the big bucks, which, of course any moron could tell you this movie is going to make a crapton of money! And, surprise, it did and it will continue making loads of money). Then, as the months ticked by, I started to get a little bit nervous. While they had new trailers with the characters talking, they never showed any scenes with them singing and that made me wonder how THAT would look with realistic animals singing famous Disney songs. Not to mention the score on Rotten Tomatoes was on the rotten side, so I went in with low expectations. That's probably the reason why I liked it more than I thought I would. I don't think it's as bad as the critics are saying; it was fun hearing the songs from my favorite '90s Disney soundtrack (well, MOST of them...we'll get to that later; I'm sure you know which song I'm talking about that they totally butchered!) The movie totally follows the same plot as the '94 one (as I was expecting) but there are a few changes and added scenes, so if you haven't seen this and don't want to be spoiled at all, then come back and read this after you've seen it. A word I've seen thrown out to describe this movie is "unnecessary" and that is a perfect word to describe it. Nobody needed this movie. Why do we need it when we have a perfectly serviceable animated movie that is exactly the same thing, but better and makes more sense in an animated format instead of a photo realistic one? Seriously, at least with cartoon characters you can draw them to express their feelings in their faces, while with lions and hyenas and the like, it's kind of hard to do that. Sure, you can tell us a lion is angry if he's roaring and swiping his paws at the hyena, but when we see Simba and Nala at the watering hole looking at each, they just look like lions having a drink; they don't look like lions who are falling in love with each other. The only reason we know this is because "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is playing. And also because we've seen the original so we know every beat of the movie.

Let's talk about the songs, shall we? All the original songs are in the remake and they are all the same (although they're all decent/good, I prefer the original songs but that's probably because I'm so used to hearing them since I've known them for the last twenty-five years!) The one song that is totally different is "Be Prepared", which is my favorite Disney villain song. Not only is this song a much shorter version of it (which I understand since the dynamic between Scar and the hyenas is different in this movie the the '94 one), but it's not sung, but more like chanted. Somebody described it as beat poetry which made me laugh. It just doesn't sound cool like it does in the original. It just sounds weird and awkward and makes you want to know what they did with one of the best songs in the movie. Luckily I had listened to the new songs on Spotify so I was already, ahem, prepared for the atrocity. Did you notice it was daylight, nowhere close to dusk when they sing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" Also, Beyonce was way over-singing that song with all her trills and and riffs. She is just going every which way. When she and Donald Glover are singing together, you can hardly hear him! I've been listening to the 2019 soundtrack and I laugh every time I listen to this song! I thought young Simba and Nala singing "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" sounded better; yeah, I said it! I noticed there was a song on the soundtrack by Beyonce called "Spirit" and I figured they must play it during the end credits, but no, it's in the movie when Simba and Nala return to Pride Rock. The full song is almost five minutes and while I don't know if they played the entire song during this scene, God, it sure felt like it! It's a fine song and all, but just didn't feel like it fit in and was super unnecessary. It just felt like it was an excuse to get a Beyonce song in there. In the original, there's a cute little throwaway scene of Timon and Pumbaa singing a few lines of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", but in this movie, the whole song is sung and I really liked it. It was really funny how the other animals were swaying along to the music and then they would join them. Just the way it was shot made me smile.

Now let's talk about the characters, shall we? Timon and Pumbaa (voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen) were my favorites. This is where we get all our funny moments and probably the most changes, albeit slight. When Simba tells them about the Circle of Life, they tell him they think life is more of a "meaningless line of indifference". Also, I laughed during the meta "Hakuna Matata" joke. When they tell Simba their motto and he's like, "Hakuna, what?", I love that they're shocked that he doesn't know what it is and tell him they usually get a bigger reaction and people start clapping. I mean, "Hakuna Matata" isn't just the most well-known phrase to come out of the '94  Lion King and not just the most well-known phrase to come out of the '90s Disney movies, but probably one of the most well-known phrases of any movie. When you say (or sing!) "Hakuna Matata" everyone knows what it means ("It means no worries...for the rest of your day!") and what movie it's from. EVERYONE knows this and it's been a huge part of pop culture for the last 25 years so I thought it was super funny that they make a meta joke out of it. I also thought it was funny at the end of the song when Timon comments on how Simba has gained 400 pounds, implying that they've been singing this song on a loop for quite awhile! And I loved, during the interlude when they're teaching Simba to eat grubs and telling him how delicious they are, Pumbaa adds, "And they're local!" and Timon says, "Oh, are they?" and Pumbaa says, "Yeah, they're from right here! " and points to the log that's right in front of them. That got a good chuckle out of me. Also, I don't understand how anything that's described as "slimy" could also be "satisfying." Ick. Slimy does not equal satisfying! Another funny little change with our favorite meerkat and warthog (by the way, animated cartoon warthogs are cute; photo realistic warthogs? Not so much.) is when they're at Pride Rock with Simba and Nala and need to use live bait to distract the hyenas. I was wondering if they were going to dress Timon in a hula costume, but instead he sings the opening lines to "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast (complete with a faux French accent) and I'm thinking, Are they singing a song from another '90s Disney movie? Oh, yes. Yes, they are. It was very jarring to hear a song from another Disney Renaissance movie in this one, but I suppose Disney does have the rights to it!

My least favorite character, or maybe disappointing would be a more accurate word, was Scar. Perhaps if I had seen this movie without seeing the original, I would have thought Chiwetel Ejiofor did a good job; he does sound menacing and fierce, but he is no Jeremy Irons who made that character. Jeremy Irons will always be Scar to me. In fact, when I reviewed Reversal of Fortune, I mentioned that whenever he spoke, all I could hear was Scar! He just has such a distinct voice that is perfect for a Disney villain. Ejiofor is fine and all, but he's just not the Scar that we all know and love to hate. I was also confused on some of the line readings for Scar. In the original, when Scar is about to push Mufasa off the cliff, he says, "Long. Live. The. King.", making an evil deliberate pause between each word while in the remake, he just nonchalantly says, "Long live the king".  They really should have brought Jeremy Irons back to play Scar just like the did with bringing back James Earl Jones to voice Mufasa. Wouldn't that be funny if they just reused the original voiceover he did? They really could have because Mufasa says the exact same lines, but I have a feeling you could probably tell from the audio quality. Plus, I heard he recorded his lines again for the new one.

Mufasa! Mufasa! Mufasa! I just hear that name and it makes me shiver. Would you believe they don't even have that scene in this movie? That's one of the best scenes with the hyenas. There are still three main hyenas led by Shenzi, the female. I didn't catch the name of the other two, but Ed was definitely not one of them and there is no hyena that just laughs hysterically and stupidly at everything. Instead the other hyenas (one of who is voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) have a running gag where one is always taking up the personal space of the other. It was funny, but it was also the same running gag they used in Finding Dory with the sea lions.

I could not tell the adult female lions apart at all. There are only two of them we really need to know: Sarabi, Simba's mother, and Nala. It's only when they start talking is when I know which is which. Oh, that one sounds like Beyonce, so that's Nala. There is a scene where a female lion is trying to sneak past Scar and the hyenas at night to try to get help and she doesn't speak for awhile. I figured this is when Nala goes out and eventually finds Simba and of course it was. Good thing I've already seen the original!

During the final scene, when Scar and Simba are fighting and the hyenas are ready to pounce, Nala shouts, "Lions, attack!" This is the stupidest line in the movie. First of all, of course the lions know they should attack. You don't need to announce it. Also, why does she need to qualify LIONS? There are only lions or hyenas. I don't think you need to specify the lions should attack. Duh. There's a bit of a rivalry between Nala and Shenzi and they get in a showdown during the battle and we see Nala bite Shenzi in the neck and throws her off the cliff and I'm thinking, Ooh, don't mess with Nala! But then I had to scratch my head when we see Shenzi join the other hyenas right before they're about to turn on Scar. Wait, you mean Nala didn't even kill her? That was lame.

The animals in this movie look so amazing and realistic (well, aside from when they're talking or singing), there were funny moments with Pumba and Timon;  Zazu (voiced by John Oliver) had some funny animal puns, and you will want to sing along with the songs, but I think we all know who the REAL King is!


  1. You didn't mention the violent scenes. Otherwise interesting review.

  2. Thanks for sharing your review. I might wait for the dvd.