By Michael Renouf
A quarter of a century after the original – Jon Favreau brings his CGI laden version of the Disney classic to the cinema, being entrusted with the director’s chair after his 2016 remake of The Jungle Book.
On that occasion, I did not feel the new version added anything on top of the 1967 animated film and have that feeling again, just stronger after seeing his 2019 interpretation of this classic movie.
Now don’t get me wrong, it is an entertaining film and probably still worth taking your kids to see on the big screen, but although the effects are amazing – it just does not have the soul of the original.
For me when you remake a great or even a good film you need to take the original story and add your own twist such as the John Travolta / Denzel Washington 2009 version of The Taking of Pelham 123, it is familiar enough with the 1974 Walter Matthau/Robert Shaw original to keep the older fans onside but fresh enough for a new audience.
This is the first of Favreau’s failings – it is virtually a straight remake – except he loses the humour of the hyenas and both he and the voice cast rely too heavily on a combination of the original movie and effects to carry them along. In the animated version, the characters face’s purveyed so much emotion and that is the one thing the otherwise excellent CGI fails to capture.
When Simba meets Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and Timon (Billy Eichner) this is the one part of the film that has improved but given 25 years have passed, that is very little return.
For those of you that don’t know the story, new-born cub Simba (Donald Glover) is being taught how to become a lion and leader by the king, his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones), all the while his evil uncle Scar is plotting his downfall. In the original, Scar’s every word is wonderfully laced with menace, yet the normally excellent Chiwetel Ejofor does not come close to the performance of Jeremy Irons. Rowan Atkinson was superb as Zazu all those years ago while I am afraid John Oliver – who is entertaining enough on television – just does not have Mr. Bean’s delivery. In the previous movie, the young Simba’s voice was full of wonder, but I did not get that feeling this time around.
This week’s star of the show is Seth Rogen – the comedian at least sounded like he was enjoying himself.
Amazing effects, not enough soul
It is an entertaining film and probably still worth taking your kids to see on the big screen, but although the effects are amazing – it just does not have the soul of the original.