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The Lion King
5 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers

Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, Robert Guillaume, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Whoopi Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson, Nathan Lane, Moira Kelly, Jim Cummings, Ernie Sabella, Cheech Marin, Niketa Calame

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The Lion King (1994)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
June 4th, 2008

The limited two-week run of a 3D version of one of Disney's greatest animated features? It still looks incredible, but really no different from the 1994 original, which has a timeless quality matched only by the classics created by Walt Disney himself, including Dumbo, and Bambi, where generations grew up mourning the death of the young deer's mother.

Here, we have something equally wrenching, the death of Mufasa, by his backstabbing brother, Scar, who then blames the act on the young cub who will one day be king. Thus cub, Simba, goes into exile, out of guilt and nearly overwhelming sadness, and in his absence, Scar seizes power, and his tyranny soon sends a proud, determined lioness, Nala, Simba's childhood friend, on a quest to find him, and persuade him to return and claim his rightful place as heir.

The animation is superbly detailed, vibrant and colorful, filled with occasionally frightening moments, while exploring the darker corners of its subject matter, and while not based on an existing story (though it has since been converted into a stage musical and spawned a sequel), it does incorporate themes familiar to students of mythology, in spinning its tale about the birth, childhood, and eventual manhood of Simba, its main character, who discovers his inner courage and returns to continue his father's legacy, which has been usurped and terribly corrupted. Simba's birth is announced in the spectacular opening sequence, "The Circle of Life", in which all the animals of the African wilderness gather to acknowledge their future monarch.

Mufasa is perhaps both respected and feared; he is fair and wise, and also a skilled fighter, when the situation calls for it, like when he must chase off a pack of hyenas, who serve Scar and are a constant source of trouble. The realities of the jungle dictate that these various creatures must survive by eating one another. Yet there appears to be an atmosphere of solidarity, with no hint that the lions, undoubtedly resting at the top of the food chain, must inevitably prey on the zebras and gazelles that happily accept their rule.

Simba, in the naiveté of youth, is adventurous and insubordinate, and also believes that everyone likes him. He stumbles blindly into danger, and trusts his uncle, the conniving, bitter Scar, consumed by jealousy, and feelings of inadequacy I would assume. Mufasa foolishly trusts him, too, which proves to be his undoing at a particularly vulnerable moment. Scar is one of the great Dinsey villains, joining the ranks of Maleficent, or Ursula, or The Wicked Queen.

The voice of Jeremy Irons lends an element of sardonic menace, and Scar emerges as a mannered manipulator, an air of sophistication, combined with cruelty and arrogance. James Earl Jones may have been the conventional choice for the voice of Mufasa, and you may be reminded slightly of Darth Vader, but he richly conveys wisdom and authority, as few others can, with the possible exception of Morgan Freeman. As Simba, his younger self is voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and one may be wondering what has happened to him since the end of Home Improvement, which made him a teen heartthrob.

The older Simba is Matthew Broderick, again instantly recognizable, and relatable. Consistent with Disney tradition, comic relief is provided in the form of a goofy duo, meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) and warthog Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), who become Simba's friends. And they impart to him their philosophy of Hakuna Matata, in yet another joyous musical number.

Actually, all of the songs are of exceptionally fine quality, and propelled the soundtrack up to the top of the pop charts, securing at least two number one hits, and an Oscar, for Elton John, collaborating with lyricist Tim Rice; they would work together again on The Road to El Dorado, and the 1998 adaptation of Verde's Aida. As a huge fan of Elton John, I was glad to see how this film seemed to renew his popularity, and I am convinced that Circle of Life and Can You Feel the Love Tonight are two of his better compositions from the 90s.

'The Lion King' still has the ability to enthrall and entertain both children and adults, which makes it a must-see family experience, even if you have watched it countless times on VHS or DVD. Really, the big-screen is where it belongs, and where each astonishing detail can be absorbed and marveled at.

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