Eppler: Groundbreaking animation almost justifies "Lion King" remake
Just about all of these Disney remakes have tried introduce something different to justify their existence:
"Hey, what if Belle in 'Beauty and the Beast' was actually a headstrong feminist who invents stuff and isn't so much a victim of Stockholm syndrome?"
"What if 'The Jungle Book' was more culturally sensitive?"
"What if 'Aladdin' was terrible?"
With "The Lion King," it's the groundbreaking digital animation that is so stunning it appears photo realistic and makes the thing worth seeing. It works wonders in the opening scene where the animals gather and act like animals.
But then, they start talking and singing. It feels off. See, these realistic-looking animals can't show emotion the same way the hand-drawn ones can so dramatic scenes don't have the same punch.
Visually, it feels special - like we're watching something new. But in every other way, it's just "The Lion King" again - a near scene for scene, shot for shot, and line for line remake. It's one thing in a remake when you know what characters are going to do, but it's something else when you know what they're going to say. Good for screenwriter Jeff Nathanson really making out like a bandit here with a copy and paste script from the 1994 version. While Director John Favreau is a very good filmmaker, it feels like he's just being forced to imitate, not innovate.
The voice cast is impressive, though, including Donald Glover, Beyoncé, and especially Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as Pumba and Timon. They're just spot on.
There are certainly more reasons to see "The Lion King" on the big screen than some of these other remakes. Bolder choices could have been made, and maybe they will when they remake this again in another 25 years. That's the Circle of Life.
EPPLER'S RATING: * * 1/2
* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful - The worst, an insult to movies