Review: Disney’s live-action ‘Lion King’ is a roaring success

To really appreciate what Disney pulls of with its grandiose sort-of live action redo of “The Lion King,” stay put for the end credits.

There are more “artist” names scrolling and scrolling down the screen than there are partying passengers aboard a Godzilla-sized cruise ship.

These talented unknowns along with production designer James Chinlund and director Jon Favreau deserve the lion’s share of acclaim for creating such a breathtaking visual spectacle, an epic, groundbreaking effort unlike anything you’ve seen before.

From the sweeping majesty of the African savanna to a lush, green jungle where a self-banished Simba learns to hakuna matata his way through life for a spell everything is a marvel to behold. The detailed and nuanced animals — created via a combination of virtual reality, footage of real-life critters, animation and other effects — deliver exceptional performances as do the humans voicing them, particularly Billy Eichner as the snarky meerkat Timon and Seth Rogen as his less brainy and flatulence-prone buddy, the warthog Pumbaa. They steal every scene and save the movie from being too maudlin.

The story, of course, has been told before. First there was Disney’s cherished 1994 animated original, then the boldly creative 1997 stage adaptation directed by Julie Taymor, who also shared in the writing credits and is named as an executive producer credit here. For those concerned about the Tim Rice-Elton John songs, they’re back, along with a nifty new song from Beyonce. She’s a force as the grown-up Nala, the lioness friend of the cub-who-would-be-king Simba, played by “Atlanta’s” Donald Glover who adroitly channels all the guilt and resilience of the protagonist. While Beyonce’s “Spirit” is a winner, it’s wedged into the film — perhaps to garner another Academy Awards nomination for original song. There’s also a new John-Rice tune tagged on at the end, the rather-innocuous “Never Too Late.”

Two of the best numbers — and yes, the film frequently comes off like a huge Broadway stage production — are the soaring “Circle of Life,” which jet fuels the film from the start, and the hilarious crowd-pleaser “Hakuna Matata” with Timon, Pumbaa and Simba. Complimenting the action and drama is the score from returning composer Hans Zimmer, whose music swells like an emotional tidal wave.

Narratively, Jeff Nathanson’s screenplay stays true to the original storyline: When new lion cub Simba is born to King Mufasa (James Earl Jones reprising his role mighty) and the kind and

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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