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'What's the Point?': 4 Takes on The Lion King

Some critics left disappointed with lack of originality
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2019 11:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's finally here and, apparently, fails to measure up. Disney's photorealistic remake of The Lion King—with Donald Glover as Simba, Beyonce as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa (as in 1994), Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as Timon, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar—has just a 55% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, though the 89% audience score suggests you might still enjoy a viewing. Four takes:

  • "Few [remakes] have felt quite as futile as The Lion King"—a movie "both overwhelmed by its technical virtuosity and shackled by its fidelity to the source material," writes Justin Chang at NPR. It's "so realistic-looking that, paradoxically, you can't believe a moment of it." Otherwise, the music and plot match the original—too closely. "This isn't the circle of life," Chang concludes. "It's more like a creative dead end."
  • "Why animate animals to look real instead of using, you know, real animals?" Chris Hewitt writes at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he suggests the movie should've never been made. "What's the point? Even if it were good, the best this movie could have hoped for was to be an imitation of something that was already perfect to begin with," he writes, offering some praise of the "stunning landscapes" and "inclusive casting."

  • Adam Graham has a very different opinion. The Lion King is "a dazzling visual spectacle" with "stunning photo-realism that should enthrall audiences," he writes at Detroit News, adding director Jon Favreau "does an ace job of making talking animals both palatable and believable." According to Graham, Glover and Beyonce "come up short," however, with "flat line readings coming off as stiff."
  • Rogen and Eichner are a winning pair in Peter Howell's book. But "at no point in Jon Favreau's The Lion King does it seem like it was a good idea to remake Disney's 1994 African wilderness parable, apart from the financial windfall it is sure to accrue," he writes at the Toronto Star. He adds a warning for parents: "The scenes of violence in the film are more upsetting in simulated reality than they were in animated depictions."
(Read more movie review stories.)

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