The Lion King (PG)

Starring the voices of Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Directed by Jon Favreau 

Let’s face it, you don’t come to The Lion King for its story. The Hamlet-inspired tale of an exiled lion prince claiming his throne from his father’s killer has been around for 25 years, first as an Oscar-feted animated feature and then a long-running Broadway musical. Nah, you’re here to admire and be awed by the startlingly photo-realistic world of flora and fauna. From the lead character’s luscious mane blowing in the wind to a dung beetle transporting a ball of shit to a bush baby jumping mid-air in slo-mo, it’s hard to believe that they were all generated in Pixel Land. It’s like watching a deepfake National Geographic (or Disneynature) documentary with chatty critters and Elton John songs. Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh. But when you’re done being impressed, you have to wonder why director Jon Favreau, making his second Disney reimagining following 2016’s The Jungle Book, opted for an almost beat-by-beat makeover. This kind of sophisticated mimicry makes it tough to judge the movie on its own terms. Nothing wrong with that, if you’ve never seen the hand-drawn original. While some of the upgrades — notably, the casting of Billy Eichner and Seth Roger as sidekicks Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog — are delightful, those familiar with the source material would probably find The Lion King 2.0 a little repetitive, entertaining without being engrossing, and like most of Disney’s live-action remakes, unnecessary. This new lion roars, but it doesn’t rock​​​​​​​. (***)

Photo: Disney

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