The Lion King
Simba (voice of JD McCrary), a lion cub, is next in line to become the king of the Pride Lands after his father, Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones). His friend Nala (voice of Beyoncé Knowles) would become the queen. Scar (voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor), Mufasa's brother, wants to become king himself, so he kills Mufasa and convinces Simba that he's to blame for his father's death. Simba runs away to exile to a place far away from home where he meets, befriends and grows up with Timon (Billy Eichner), a meerkat, and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), a warthog, until he becomes an adult lion (now voiced by Donald Glover).
If you're seen the original version of The Lion King from 1994, this remake won't be very surprising in terms of its plot because screenwriter Jeff Nathanson doesn't change it, but what's surprising, though, is how much of original classic's heart, humor and soul remains intact. The story has elements of tragedy, adventure, thrills, suspense, drama, comedy and a little dash of romance. So, it's roller coaster ride of emotions that's also captivating for all ages. Yes, it does deal with the topics of death and grief briefly, but it's much more of a tale that celebrates the value of life, family and courage. The stampede scene is indeed intense while leaving just enough for the imagination so that it's not too scary for little kids. Once Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa, that's when The Lion King truly soars as they both add very witty and hilarious comic relief. If you loved them in the 1994 version, you'll love them in this version, too. You'll also be fully invested in the journey of Simba and root for him every step of the way, even if you already know how the story will end. The updated versions of the songs don't exactly hold a candle to the original songs, but---hakuna matata---they come close enough to pull your heartstrings and make you feel uplifted.
To top it all off, the scenery of the jungle looks breathtaking and must be seen on the big screen. Nature becomes a character in itself, and, fortunately, director Jon Favreau doesn't shy away from showing audience the wondrous beauty of nature. There's a scene with hair from Simba's mane that travels a long distance in the wind that becomes one of the most poignant, amusing, joyous and quietly powerful scenes in the film. That scene alone transcends words. The CGI of the animals and even little insects look so photo-realistic that you'll forget that you're actually watching animation. Where does CGI end and live action begin? That blurred line is part of what makes movies so magical, after all. The Lion King should easily be a contender for Best Visual Effects awards later this year. Prepare to be mesmerized and enchanted by this enormously entertaining adventure that's a visually stunning spectacle with a big heart. It's a triumph!