"It’s given me the warmest fuzzy feelings that I remember from a much more innocent time"
With Disney’s recent influx of remakes and reimaginings of classic family favourites from yesteryear I was cautious when asked to review The Lion King, after all, the 1994 original has always held a special place in my heart along with the soundtrack. It’s fair to say that if you were a child of the late 80s or early 90s that Hakuna Matata was almost certainly in your vocabulary whether you loved or loathed it.
So, with that it mind, I at least felt that Disney took a big chance on remaking this, however the results speak for themselves. This is not only a faithful remake, the choice to have Jon Favreau who is most well known recently for his work for Marvel as director works perfectly. The film keeps its family friendly yet very personal feel throughout and has been a personal highlight of this summers slate of releases.
With the above in mind for those who aren’t familiar with the classic story, The Lion King follows the story of the young prince Simba, from birth through the trials of childhood to becoming the King that his people want and need.
For the sake of not giving spoilers I’ll only allude to the (still) rather emotional twist and say that yes, it's still as sad and raw 24 years on and in HD. In fact the visual style choices work brilliantly and it's somewhat amazing seeing your favourite characters brought to life, with this in mind IMAX is going to be the best way to see this film.
The voice work as well is superb, Simba is expertly voiced by JD McCrary & Donald Glover, as well Shahadi Wright Joseph/Beyonce as Nala. A supporting cast is rounded out by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar & James Earl Jones reprising his role of Mufasa, let's be fair, that would have been extremely big boots to fill for any actor and I think none of us could imagine anyone else doing it justice. Also a special mention to Billy Eichner & Seth Rogan who bring Timon & Pumba alive in glorious fashion and honestly made me feel like a kid again singing along.
Now to mention a big part of what makes any musical a success, the soundtrack. Thankfully the original score has been largely kept intact (weirdly with the omission of the coconut song?) and re-recorded to provide an updated feel.
This, is in fact my only very minor criticism of the film, the originals utterly fantastic soundtrack just every so slightly edges its way above this even though they are virtually identical.
This is a family film at heart and it's Disney doing exactly what Disney does best but I’d offer one small word of caution, there are a few scenes with the CGI that looks very real that younger members of the family may find a little distressing. This just goes to show how well it is executed as it is entirely convincing.
To summarise, The Lion King remake is what it has always been, for those that have seen the original it’s a faithful remake that still retains all the heart, emotion and fun of the original. For those that have never seen it (firstly why?) there isn’t a better time to get to a cinema and be taken on an emotional and unforgettable trip with characters that have stood the test of time and are beloved to this day.
And remember.. Hakuna Matata… What a wonderful phrase…