Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Lion King


Dirs: Roger Allers (Story Supervisor on several Disney animated films of the 90's) and Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little; Stuart Little 2; Disney's Haunted Mansion)

The #15 top grossing movie of all time, state side at least? Beloved narrative that has been spun off into a variety of other formats? One of the entries into Disney's famed cycle of animated features in the 90's? And I haven't seen it?!? That is an irrational prejudice. But no longer!

Largely flawed story of an heir to the jungle throne tricked into exile and forced to tap into his lion-ly self esteem to overthrow his regicidal uncle. A litte bit of Hamlet, a little ABC after school special, The Lion King manages to have very little to say about any of these subjects. A movie that acknowledges its own oddly placed narrative by simultaneously embracing the ruthlessness of nature and proclaiming the interconnectedness of nature insults its audience by offering no interesting resolution to that paradox. Instead, we get a sporadic narrative along familiar lines. Even kids' movies should have something to say. This story is lazy, and lets its exotic locale provide the entirety of the interest for the audience.

In particular when Disney had produced the magical Beauty and the Beast just three years earlier, the failings of the Lion King are evident. The score by Tim Rice and Elton John is essentially insipid, throwaway bubble gum songs that do nothing to advance plot or characterization. The fact that Hakuna Matata (sp?) has become a bit of a catch phrase is due entirely to the catchiness of its refrain and not to its quality as a song. In fact, every song save the love song is pretty much the same thing. Anyone can write a pop melody, and put in three verses of "We're going to the watering hole" and call it a song. But that is the bare minimum effort, as B and the B can testify.

The animation is pretty good. It is very comforting to see that Disney style again; the thickness of water as it splashes around, those flowing transitions from a small bird into an entire steppe landscape, the remarkably expressive faces of these characters are all on familiar display. The voices for the most part are well cast, especially Nathan Lane before he was Nathan Lane and the the very welcome Rowan Atkinson. The one sour note is Matthew Broderick as the adult Simba; I'm not sure that nasal nerd is really working for me there.

Look, even for a kids' movie, you have to try harder than this. Talking animals and fart jokes may get you to #15, but as a film the Lion King is lacking.

Irrational prejudice? Confirmed.



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 12/13/2005 11:21:00 PM that...

So is it now a "rational" prejudice? Were we entering this "charade" with a truly open mind? (this is not a defense of the Lion King, though). Pixar makes the best Disney films nowadays.  

Blogger Paul Johnson noted on 12/13/2005 11:59:00 PM that...

The Lion King was a cut below The Little Mermaid and Beauty in the Beast in my childhood.  

Blogger paroske noted on 12/14/2005 03:35:00 PM that...

This was review 100. Blog really taking off!


Blogger ronvon2 noted on 12/14/2005 04:43:00 PM that...

Wow, really? I am certainly biased, but I have read a lot of film reviews, both popular and academic, and this is one of the most erudite series of film writerings I have been exposed to. Props to all.

Watch out Village Voice...  

Blogger maxwell noted on 12/18/2005 04:12:00 AM that...

hypercapitalist anthropocentric blood fest . . .