Voices of: Keegan-Michael Key Seth Rogen Donald Glover Chiwetel Ejiofor James Earl Jones
John Kani Billy Eichner Alfre Woodard Beyonce Amy Sedaris John Oliver JD McCreary
What hard lessons for a cub to learn, especially when malevolence is involved! Simba (McCreary as the young Simba) is so proud to be next in line for king, but is so young he doesn’t understand the responsibilities that are part of such an honor. He sees it initially as more freedoms for him, without regard for others. He’s impatient, and easily led astray by Uncle Scar (Ejiofor), going where he shouldn’t go and being susceptible to outright lies. Fortunately, the pride looks out for him, the best they can, especially the hilarious mother hen, Zazu (Oliver), but sometimes, Simba is too much for him, even. The story contains high risks and tragedies, and although adults are likely to be entertained, it may be a little too heavy for young children.
The filming is spectacular (VFX by Rob Legato, cinematography by Caleb Deschanel, production design by James Chinlund), and the varied pace gives the viewer times to simply soak up being in the wild with exotic animals. Hans Zimmer’s score made up of mixed genres is a definite highlight, sometimes being background and sometimes center stage.
The story (screenplay by Jeff Nathanson) is mostly captivatingly suspenseful, but has interludes showing community solidarity, loving family life, and Simba’s coming of age experiences and his relationship with his father Mufasa (Jones). There is plenty of humor too, such as the warthog Pumbaa (Rogen) and his sidekick Timon (Eichner) providing funny “stand-up” routines while being protective of Simba (with an ulterior motive, of course).
Romance is supplied by Mufasa and Sarabi (Woodard) in their continuing loving relationship, and the preadolescent/young adult attraction between Simba (Glover) and Nala (Beyonce) when they’re teenager/young adults. The latter has its humor in the preadolescent phase, when the two friends cannot fathom being married (Ewww!), but then later on clearly being attracted to one another.
The Lion King has good modeling for kids, as well, showing them what it means to have community solidarity, nurturance by the older for the younger, and the importance of truthfulness. I also appreciated their illustrating to children that adults do lie sometimes, so all of them cannot be trusted.
Hard lessons learned in the transition from cub to king.