I Have Thoughts: The Lion King Edition
The Lion King is one of the greatest Disney movies of all time (I’m ready to throw hands over this declaration) so it’s only natural there was a lot of buzz behind the live action adaptation. Coupled with excitement, I had nervous skepticism whether the “real” African animals would provide the same warm, tingly feeling the animated film emanated. Before you start, obviously there’s only so much emotion CGI animals can express BUT there were a few aspects of the film I just can’t let go. I will note, I’m going to be ridiculously and irrationally critical. Be a good friend and allow me to get this out of my system.
Let me start by saying, the opening scene was excellent. I wept real black ass tears. It was everything I hoped and prayed it would be. What a moment. Also, with the exception of Beyoncé (we’ll discuss this soonish), the casting was PERFECT. But there was something off about the voice acting. Because this is a favorite and beloved film to me, I know the dialogue front to back, left to right, sideways, inflection of each character’s voice, all of it and it fell flat. I will give a special nod of approval to the voice actors for young Nala (voice by Shahadi Wright Joseph who’s known for her role in Jordan Peele’s Us) and young Simba (voice by JD McCrary known for snatching us bald with his 2018 Grammy performance with Donald Glover). But the adults, the seasoned veterans in this game called Hollywood…I just. I don’t know who’s to blame for their lackluster performance but I’m blaming them.
Something that was interesting and completely threw me off was Ed (renamed Azizi and voice by Eric Andre) actually speaking, as in uttering words. It was unnatural but I enjoyed the comic relief between Azizi and Kamari (named Banzai in the original animated filmed and voiced by Keegan-Michael Key).
Let’s discuss Timon (voiced by Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (voice by Seth Rogen) for a spell. They are among my favorite characters in both the animated and live action film. It was fun that after 25 years, Pumbaa finally said “farted”. That moment oddly satisfied my four-year-old self. Though us 25+ folks flocked to see this new version of this beloved childhood movie, it was understood it will attract a new generation. In the age of social media, the writers took the opportunity to discuss bullies. This scene replaced the “They call me Mr. Pig” where Timon and Pumbaa were surrounded by bloodthirsty hyenas. Though I understand and applaud the writers for using the platform for good, I was selfishly hoping to hear those words while Pumbaa charged the hyenas.
Okay, let’s get right into the shit. Stop giving Beyoncé (who voiced adult Nala) acting roles! Sis can sing my soul into another dimension but we the people have told y’all time and time again, to stop torturing us with her acting. Couldn’t we just pull a Kendrick and had her solely in charge of the soundtrack?
One of my favorite podcasters, Kid Fury, recently referred to Scar (voice by Chiwetel Ejiofor) as a “butch queen” and frankly couldn’t have said it better myself. Scar is that Disney villain you know you’re supposed to hate but are utterly obsessed with. The sass and fire that oozed from this envious lion was fun. His song “Be Prepared” is fucking fantastic. It was soulful, passionate, and had all the “butch queen” realness we deserved. For those blessed enough to see the Broadway version of The Lion King, you know sis gave us the same life the animated Scar did. So, where the fuck was it in the live action adaptation? To butcher and bastardize “Be Prepared” is a crime against humanity.
Other than that, the movie was a refreshed take on this classic, some dialogue was changed or condensed which I didn’t mind too much, Rafiki (played by Black Panther’s John Kani) and Zazu (voiced by John Oliver) were great and just as kooky as I needed them to be. My children won’t be seeing this film but it was cute.