By Colby Tortorici
The Disney live-action remakes are a bit of a mixed bag.
On the one hand, there’s the dumpster fire of a film that is Dumbo, where the CGI elephant baby is somehow the best actor in the entire cast. Then there are the Aladdins, the films that make a few nice changes here and there but are by and large the same film as their source material. 2019’s The Lion King falls squarely into the latter category.
The live-action remake of The Lion King is largely the same story you remember as a child. Mufasa dies (the entire theater sobs), Scar blames Simba, he runs away, Beyoncé brings him back after she sings a song with Donald Glover. The exact same story you remember.
While the runtime of the remake is 30 minutes longer than the original animated feature, there are very few changes made to the overall plot and theme of the film.
Nala gets a slightly elevated role this time around (thanks in part to her voice actress being the one-and-only Beyoncé), and is a prominent figure throughout the entire length of the film. Her willingness to leave the pride in order to find help to defeat Scar is highlighted, and her journey back to the pride with Simba in tow is scored to the brand new track Spirit, sung by the Grammy-winner.
As previously stated, nothing is wildly different from the original film. Thus, Nala’s role in the film isn’t hugely changed, but her supporting role in Simba’s reclamation of the pride is certainly bolstered in the new film.
Fan favorites Timon and Pumbaa have a bit more screentime in the live-action version. Seth Rogen’s Pumbaa stays very true to the original, but Billy Eichner’s Timon is full of brand new modern one-liners and zings that completely separates him from the original. While the animated Timon is in no way a boring character, Eichner’s take on Timon is a fun, fourth-wall-breaking version whose interactions with Pumbaa are some of the highlights of the film.
All-in-all, if you’re a fan of the original ‘94 film, you’ll be a fan of the remake. The main story is the same, the CGI looks fantastic – as expected, and the new voice cast fills their roles beautifully. The cast manages to soar through both their singing and speaking roles, and the chemistry between Glover and Beyoncé is palpable.
There’s not too much new to the film, but enough small updates (and major visual changes) to warrant a viewing of this brand new take on a classic film. While there isn’t much to dislike, there isn’t much to make this film stand on its own from the original.
Pro-Tip: listen to Beyonce’s accompanying album The Lion King: The Gift after watching the movie for a truly great time.