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REVIEW: ‘The Lion King’ is a superb family-friendly remake

July 19th, 2019 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘The Lion King’ is a superb family-friendly remake

Disney

Simba is a young lion cub who can’t imagine life without his father, Mufasa, the king of the pride lands.

“Dad, we’re pals, right?”

“Right,” his father tells him.

“And we’ll always be together,” Simba says.

Well, not exactly, but just like any good father, Mufasa explains his future death in language that won’t shock his son.

Yet nothing can prepare Simba for what happens a few days later.

Simba gets caught in a stampede of wildebeests. His father rescues him, but then is killed due to a nefarious action of a jealous brother, Scar.

Believing he is responsible for his father’s death, a guilt-ridden Simba runs away from the only place he’s ever known, and Scar -- a power-hungry evil lion -- takes the throne.

Disney’s The Lion King (PG) opens in theaters this weekend, starring James Earl Jones as Mufasa, JD McCrary as the young Simba, Donald Glover as the older Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, and Billy Eichner as Timon.

It’s a live-action remake of the 1994 animated film that won two Oscars. Jones had the same role in that earlier film. Composer Hans Zimmer also worked on both projects.

The film follows the same plot, and in some scenes is nearly an exact reproduction. But the remake is 30 minutes longer than the original. It gets there by lengthening a few scenes and adding other ones that weren’t in the 1994 movie.

Overall, the 2019 The Lion Kingis an entertaining and well-done remake, although with a slower pace at times. It’s a redemptive story about tragedy and triumph. Overall, it’s superb. 

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal/moderate. The scenes seem more intense in a live-action film. Hyenas chase a young Simba, trying to eat him. (“Kill him,” Scar says.) Mufasa’s death is identical to the original, but the emotional impact of Simba mourning over him is greater, as is Scar’s falsely blaming Simba for the tragedy. The movie ends just like the first one, with hyenas and lions battling and then two lions going one-one-one (and one lion falling off a cliff toward a fire). 

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

None. Zazu, a red-billed hornbill, gives Mufasa his daily report and says he saw two giraffes “necking.” 

Coarse Language

None/minimal. We hear one “my G-d” and one “farted.” The latter takes place in Pumbaa’s song, Hakuna Matata. In the original film, Timon places his hand over Pumbaa’s mouth, preventing him from saying it.

Other Positive Elements

Mufasa’s love and care for his son is admirable. It’s the heart of the story. Meanwhile, Simba is just as cute and cuddly as the original

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Watching Mufasa die, and Simba mourn over him, could trouble children (or anyone) who has lost a parent. (“Wake up,” Simba says.)

Pumbaa passes gas.

Life Lessons

You can’t change your past, but you can change your future. That’s what Pumbaa and Timon tell Simba. It’s good advice.

Don’t answer evil with evil: Simba has a chance to kill Scar the same way Scar killed his father. Simba, though, displays mercy.  

Children are a blessing: Mufasa and Sarabi truly care for Simba.

Worldview/Application

The 1994 film and the 2019 version tell us there is a “circle of life.”

But is there? Well, yes and no.

There certainly isa circle of life in the physical realm. Just look at a forest through the seasons: Trees bloom in the spring. Leaves turn green in the summer, and then fall off in autumn. Then, on the ground, those decayed leaves provide fertilizer for — you guessed it — new trees in the spring. The film illustrates this by showing us a tuft of Simba’s fur changing ownership — from a bird nest, to a giraffe’s accidental meal, to a dung beetle, to a leaf-cutting ant.

In the Kingdom or spiritual realm, though, there is no circle of life. There is no reincarnation. We have a soul, and it spends eternity either with or apart from God. This means Mufasa is spouting real-world nonsense when he tells Simba that “the great kings of the past look down on us from the stars” to guide us.

Mufasa comes close to the truth when he says of his land: “It is ours to protect -- a great responsibility.”

The Bible says we are stewards of the planet, entrusted to treat it as we would our own home — with care.

Sponsors

McDonald’s, General Mills, Yoplait, Go-Gurt and Ocean Spray are sponsors well-known to children.

What Works

The animal recreations. The interaction between Mufasa and Simba. The tiny details, such as recreations of ants and worms. 

What Doesn’t

The slower pace. The movie doesn’t drag, but there are a few moments where the original movie easily outshines the newer version.

Discussion Questions

1. What is the key to overcoming guilt about your past? What does the Bible say?

2. Why was Scar jealous? Should he have been jealous? How would the story have been different if he were supportive?

3. One character says “life is meaningless.” How would you have responded?

4. Is there a “great circle of life”?

5. Are our ancestors in the stars, looking down on us? What does the Bible say?

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.