The Lion King 2019 | Movie Review

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🎥 Cinematography by Caleb Deschanel

🎬 Directed by Jon Favreau

🎞 Edited by Adam Gerstel & Mark Livolsi

🎼 Music by Hans Zimmer

📋 Produced by Jeffrey Silver, Jon Favreau, & Karen Gilchrist

📝 Screenplay by Jeff Nathanson

🌟 S T A R R I N G

🦁 Alfre Woodard as Sarabi

🦃 Amy Sedaris as a guineafowl

🦁 Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala | Shahadi Wright Joseph as young Nala

🐛 Billy Eichner as Timon

🐒 Chance the Rapper as a bushbaby

🦁 Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar

🦁 Donald Glover as Simba | JD McCrary as young Simba

😂 Eric Andre as Azizi

😂 Florence Kasumba as Shenzi

🦁 James Earl Jones as Mufasa

🐵 John Kani as Rafiki

🦜 John Oliver as Zazu

🐀 Josh McCrary as an elephant shrew

😂 Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari

🦁 Penny Johnson Jerald as Sarafina

🦌 Phil LaMarras as a  topi

🐗 Seth Rogen as Pumbaa

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I hope you don’t have Disney fatigue because we have two more remakes to discuss. Up next is The Lion King from 2019. This was my first viewing:

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Right away this looks like a one of those nature documentaries that Disney makes from time to time. I feel like I’m on the African savannah watching real animals live their lives. No matter how you feel about the cast or story, you have to admit the CGI is impeccable. I had heard some criticism about how the mouths look.  Now that I’ve seen the movie myself, I can contribute to the discussion & say I wasn’t bothered by how the talking mouths looked. They didn’t look any different than the animals in The Jungle Book. That being said, I could see why it was bothersome. The CGI is so realistic that it’s hard to believe those are the same talking animals from the 1994 movie.

Let’s look at some of the cast. Number one, I want to shine a spotlight on Shahadi Wright Joseph who reprised her role as young Nala from the musical. I could be wrong, but I’m only aware of one other actor who has played the same role on Broadway & onscreen: Jonathan Freeman as Jafar. At a young age, she is already in exclusive company. What an accomplishment! Number two, I don’t mind new voices for familiar characters as long as they do the role justice. In this case there aren’t too many weak links, but I’ll go into more detail later on. What I really want to say is that bringing James Earl Jones back to voice Mufasa was 100% the right choice. Some will agree, & others will disagree. I realize that sticking with the same voice might hold the remake back from being its own unique project, & I respect that criticism. However, I’m a selfish Disney fan, & hearing James’ voice was a nice dose of nostalgia. On the flip side of the coin, I had to watch him die as Mufasa for a second time which was awful. 😭

I need a moment to squeal about young Simba. HE IS SO FREAKING ADORABLE!! 😭💕

I really liked the dark tone of the Be Prepared scene, but it wasn’t as good as it should’ve been vocally. Jeremy Irons’ role was always going to be a big one to fill. Chiwetel Ejiofor was up to the task with his superb acting, but his singing voice was lacking. He himself has joked that he was “talking in a tuneful way.” That’s just not good enough for an iconic Disney villain song. A comment on YouTube said it best: “DUDE I WAS WAITING FOR HIM TO SING WHEN I REALIZED THAT HE WAS ALREADY SINGING?????”


Reliving Mufasa’s death was HEARTBREAKING! 💔 Scar killing his brother then pinning the blame on his young nephew is still one of the cruelest moves in Disney villain history. Simba’s little face & body language are too much to handle, especially with CGI that looks WAAAY too real. 😭

I didn’t watch The Lion King as a child, but I did grow up on Timon & Pumbaa so those two characters are near & dear to my heart. I knew Seth Rogen would do a good job as Pumbaa, but I had doubts about Billy Eichner from the moment he was cast as Timon. He did have some good moments, but I didn’t love the performance as a whole. In my personal opinion, his singing voice & talking voice had the same problem: they didn’t match the character. I will say his singing was surprisingly good; not perfect but better than I was expecting. Seth isn’t a trained singer, but Pumbaa is the kind of character that can get away with below average vocals, although I would’ve preferred them to be a bit better. As a pair, Billy & Seth sounded their best during The Lion Sleeps Tonight & Can You Feel the Love Tonight. Hakuna Matata was always going to be a losing battle because JD McCrary & Donald Glover were not messing around with their vocals. So good!




Donald Glover is a fantastic Simba. I only have one teeny tiny complaint: His voice doesn’t match the CGI character during his years in the oasis with Timon & Pumbaa, specifically the scene when Nala finds him. His voice has a teen/young adult tone to it while his lion body looks very intimidating. Once he’s in the Pride Lands ready to take back his crown, his voice becomes more serious & matches the way he looks. I want to clarify that this isn’t Donald’s fault because that’s exactly how Matthew Broderick sounded in the original film. The CGI just looks so realistic that the believability fades a little bit when you hear Simba talk during that point in the story. The cartoon movie got away with it because it was, well, a cartoon.

In the remake, Can You Feel the Love Tonight was sung by Simba & Nala. Obviously the crew wasn’t going to put Beyoncé in a musical scene & not have her sing. I’m not a big fan of the pop nuances but respect that she was allowed to make the song her own. I felt the same way about the brand new song Spirit. It’s a good song on its own but sounds like something that should play over the closing credits, not during the movie. According to composer Hans Zimmer, that was its original spot before a last minute change. Personally I think that move was a mistake, but it doesn’t sound horrible. I’m just not convinced that it belongs.


Easter egg alert! When Timon & Pumbaa come face to face with the hyenas, the meerkat sings Be Our Guest to distract them, a familiar tune from Beauty and the Beast.

In the beginning of the movie when young Nala & Simba wander into the elephant graveyard, they’re attacked by a group of hyenas led by Shenzi. At the end when Scar and the hyenas take on Simba & the lionesses, Nala faces off against Shenzi. This is her chance to get revenge as an adult, & the victory does indeed land in her corner. Gotta love that storytelling!

Everything looked so realistic that I started to feel bad for Scar at the end. I had to snap out of my CGI trance & remind myself how evil he’d been for the last two hours. Don’t fall for the trap & feel pity! He’s one of the best Disney villains because he’s one of the worst Disney villains.

💬 Closing Thoughts: Animal-led movies have to be perfect, like The Jungle Book, otherwise I lose some interest & rewatch it very little, if at all. The original Lion King is a classic so the remake had to be perfect. It came close . . .

It goes without saying that James Earl Jones was perfect as Mufasa, & his Queen Sarabi was also perfect, her voice provided by Alfre Woodard. Chiwetel Ejiofor was perfect as talking Scar, but his singing wasn’t strong enough for Be Prepared. JD Mcrary was perfect as young Simba, & Donald Glover was perfect as adult Simba. Shahadi Wright Joseph was perfect as young Nala. Beyoncé was good as the voice of adult Nala; I’m just not convinced that her style of singing meshed with the soundtrack. John Oliver was perfect as Zazu as was John Kani as Rafiki. Seth Roger was great as Pumbaa, but his singing could’ve been better. Billy Eichner was just okay as the voice of Timon. The hyenas were perfect. Eric Andre & Keegan-Michael Key were a comedic duo as Azizi & Kamari while Florence Kasumba voiced their fierce leader Shenzi. The CGI was unbelievably realistic. Seriously, it felt like I was watching real animals act out a classic Disney story. This was a stunning movie with an almost perfect cast & almost perfect soundtrack. It is so annoying that it came so close to perfection but missed the cut because of a few fixable issues, much like Beauty and the Beast. The problem with a remake not being perfect is that there’s a perfect original movie to watch instead. This movie won’t be ranked high, but it doesn’t deserve to be ranked super low either so expect it to land somewhere in the middle.

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🍅 Rotten Tomatoes: 52% Critics | 88% Audience

🏆 Major AwardsBest Visual Effects Oscar nomination (Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, Elliot Newman, & Robert Legato) | Best Animated Feature Film Best Original Song – Motion Picture (Spirit – Beyoncé, Ilya Salmanzadeh, & Labrinth) Golden Globe nominations | Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual MediaBest Pop Solo Performance (Spirit – Beyoncé), Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media (Hans Zimmer), & Best Song Written for Visual Media (Spirit – Beyoncé, Ilya Salmanzadeh, & Labrinth) Grammy nominations

❓ Original or Remake: I will definitely rewatch the remake, but this battle is a no brainer. The Original is superior!

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🎥 Stay tuned for another movie review tomorrow! 🍿

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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