The Lion King (PG)
If you get confused and think you’ve wandered into a Disneynature film, don’t be embarrassed—you won’t be alone. Working Disney magic as only Disney can, “The Lion King” is cast entirely with animals—sort of. The film could not have worked without the human input of such voice actors as Seth Rogen (Pumbaa, the Warthog), Billy Eichner (Pumbaa’s sidekick Timon, the Meerkat), James Earl Jones (Mufasa, the original Lion King), Donald Glover (the adult Simba), Beyoncé (Nala, the eventual bride of Simba) and John Oliver (Zazu, the fluttering majordomo to both kings).
That being said, the portrayal of the computer-generated imagery (CGI) animals is simply magical. That they operate in a theater of magical and picturesque jungles helps, but the action is ceaseless, the color mix and dialogue faultless and the events entirely plausible in a melodramatic way: Lion meets lioness as kids, it’s predicted that they will rule eventually (they do) and that hard times will be ahead. There’s treachery—Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is as vile a villain as one ever wants to meet. There’s the aforementioned movie love, and there is plenty of comedy thanks to a lackadaisical meerkat and warthog Pumbaa.
The photography is downright breathtaking, and the secret of how they managed to film all these animals in their various scenes should remain a mystery; it’s too wonderful a concept to be analyzed. Particularly spectacular among the many brilliant scenes is the fight staged between various animals, set against a raging fire.
There are moments that may disturb sensitive kids, such as the death of Mufasa, but they are as much a necessary part of the
story as was the death of Bambi’s mother in a previous animal-oriented feature.
The film received a loud ovation as it concluded. I don’t blame them for applauding as this is a classic Disney film—one of the best of the summer so far.