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Movie Review: The Lion King

Banners: Disney, Fairview Entertainment

Producers: Jon Favreau, Jeffery Silver, Karen Gilchrist

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast (English Voiceovers): Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Billy Eichner, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones

Cast (Hindi Voiceovers): Shah Rukh Khan, Aryan Khan, Sanjay Mishra, Asrani, Shreyas Talpade

Writer: Jeff Nathanson (screenplay)

Music: Hans Zimmer

When Disney decided to remake a live action version of The Jungle Book, most people didn’t know what to expect. But director Jon Favreau created magic, be it Mowgli to the actors who voiced the iconic characters or the CGI, everything was just perfect. It was therefore no surprise that the same director was roped in for the recent version of The Lion King.

While many of us already know the story, here is a quick recap. Mufasa is the ruler of the Pride Lands. He believes in the circle of life and that is also the philosophy with which he rules. His queen Sarabi, son Simba and the rest of the lions love and respect him. The other animals that live on Pride Lands are also in awe of Mufasa. The only enemies of Mufasa are the hyenas and Mufasa’s brother, Scar.

Scar tries to have Simba killed by the hyenas, but Mufasa saves him just in time. That’s when Scar decides that the only way he can control Pride Lands is if Mufasa dies. He uses treachery to have him killed and blames Simba for the death. He makes him feel so guilty that Simba runs away from home, leaving behind his mother, close friend Nala and his father’s loyal aide Zazu, the hornbill. Scar sends the hyenas behind him for the kill and announces to the lions that since Mufasa and Simba are no more, he is now king.

Simba escapes the hyenas and finds his way into a different land where he meets Timon and Pumba, a meerkat and a warthog. Their philosophy of life is ‘Hakuna matata’ which means ‘no worries’. Simba grows up with them and is leading a carefree life. But things take a sudden turn when he runs into Nala who is surprised to find him alive. She requests him to come home and take over the Pride Lands. He refuses at first, but then the wise words of Rafiki, the mandrill, help him realise his true calling.

How he confronts Scar and the hyenas and becomes the ruler of Pride Lands forms the rest of the story.

The new version of the film sticks to the original story, except for a few character and scene changes. The musical has all the favourite songs, from The circle of life to Hakuna matata. Full marks to the CGI work, the detailed work on the animals, their movements and expressions is amazing. The mouth movements are in sync with the dialogues. The landscape of Africa has been created so beautifully that you feel that you are actually on a wildlife safari. There are some goosebump moments, like when Rafiki holds Simba in the air or when Simba speaks to the ghost of Mufasa. There are also some heartwarming moments when Mufasa and Simba are playing, as well as lump-in-the-throat moments, when Mufasa succumbs and we have little Simba trying to wake him up. All these have been brought out on screen beautifully. The dialogues are poignant, funny and inspiring. Visually and musically The Lion King is a treat. Probably the only drawback is in trying to make the film realistic, the narrative is not as gripping, but nevertheless it is still worth a watch.

The voice overs by the cast are brilliant. Donald Glover as Simba treats us to not just his soulful dialogue delivery, but also some amazing singing. James Earl Jones as Mufasa brings a lot of dignity to the character just as he did in the animated version. Alfre Woodard as Sarabi is good. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar is terrifying as it is meant to be. Beyoncé as Nala is okay but we wish there was a bit more oomph in her voice work. But the real standout moments come from John Oliver, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner, who play Zazu, Pumba and Timon respectively. They have the funniest lines and they deliver them to get some hearty laughs out as well.

As for the voice overs in the Hindi version of the film, we have to say that the impact of The Lion King just escalates when Shah Rukh Khan’s voice is associated with the King Mufasa. The actor oozes charm in every word he delivers. And that charm is carried forward a generation when the superstar’s son Aryan Khan lends his voice to Simba. The father-son jodi takes the film to a whole new level for the audience. Along with them, veteran actor Asrani as Zazu is amazing and Sanjay Mishra’s Pumba and Shreyas Talpade’s Timon add an extra zing to the story with their hilarious dialogues.

Verdict: Hit!

English film rating: ***

Hindi film rating: ***1/2 (The extra half is for the heart-winning father-son duo of Shah Rukh Khan and Aryan Khan)

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