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The Lion King

The Lion King

What She said:

She

I cannot watch the beginning of this movie without crying.  There, I’ve admitted it.  Same with the musical.  I’ve seen it twice and both times I get choked up at the triumphant opening.  Maybe it’s the absolute splendor of it all.  Or perhaps it’s just the simple fact that the movie takes me back to a simpler time, my childhood.  I know part of it is the nostalgia of what the film symbolizes, the height of Disney hand-drawn animation.  Remember how excited we all got over The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King?  Even our parents couldn’t contain their enthusiasm.

That’s because films like The Lion King are visually spectacular, musically invigorating, and the storylines are solid from beginning to end, infused with moral takeaways that are uplifting.  The Lion King has never disappointed me.  It is more beautiful than ever in its recent Blu-ray re-release.  The music echoes, both the sung pieces and the film score.  And here’s a story that everyone can take something away from.

You are probably aware of the storyline, so I’ll sum it up very quickly.  Young Simba is naïve and a bit too preoccupied with becoming king of the Pride Lands.  He neglects to realize that his Uncle Scar is out to kill him and his father in effort to steal the throne.  Scar’s plan sort of half works and Simba flees the kingdom for many years.  Meanwhile, his uncle takes over and let’s hyenas come in and ruin things.  It’s up to Simba to regain the confidence he needs to confront his Uncle and take back his rightful place as king.

There are lots of messages here.  The cast of characters is overrun by animals, which is great for children, but it tells a human story with human values.   We learn important lessons about responsibility, loss, and family.  There’s that whole somewhat cheesy “circle of life” stuff that resonates well with the younger crowd.  The film will visually suck you in, but is certain to entertain with charm and humor as well.

What He said:

He

It’s the cirrrcllle of liiiiiifffe. It’s more than just a lyric from the song; it’s the movie’s entire philosophy. The core message of the movie is a very simple, but one that seems to ring true nonetheless.  That’s what is so great about the Disney classics. They tell us things we already know, but sometimes need to hear again from time to time.

The Lion King is about life (and death too). It’s about the triumphs and struggles and everything else in between. It may end on a happy note, but sometimes there is  a lot of sadness on the way to it. And boy is there some genuinely sad stuff in this movie. You really do feel for little Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) when his Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) betrays his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones). That part of the movie is actually a little tough to watch – and I imagine it could even be traumatic for kids – but the movie touches on some very real issues.  There is some really good, life-lesson type of stuff going on here.

The story is really strengthened by some top-notch voice acting. Every actor really seemed to fit the role they were playing.

James Earl Jones is known for his voice and was born to play this role. Mufasa looks, acts, and thanks to Jones, sounds like a king too. His commanding voice brings legitimacy to this animated role.  Just as the same with Darth Vader, I cannot imagine anyone else voicing this role.

And what would Mufasa be without his nemesis Scar? Every hero needs a villain and boy does Jeremy Irons deliver. He has that sneaky, slithery, evil voice that this type of villain called for. Scar is the first to admit he poses no physical threat to Mufas, but will not hesitate to stab him in the back when he isn’t looking.  You can actually hear elements of that type of personality in Irons’ voice.

Even his cronies are cast perfectly. The hyenas aren’t major characters, but Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin are just what the doctor ordered. It’s easy to overlook these performances, because if they picked people who didn’t stand out, you probably wouldn’t care. But to have supporting roles be so well-cast is a bonus and one that really pays off.

Then there’s Simba, who’s voiced by two separate people. JTT – as he was known in his heyday – was excellent at portraying Simba, particularly during his vulnerable moments. He was a teenager at the time, but luckily for the audience he still gave off a very youthful impression.  Matthew Broderick was also very good. He has this kind of voice that portrays sense vulnerability, but can sound like a leader when he has to.

The movie also looks fantastic, especially on Blu-ray.

Diagnosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on November 9, 2011.