LION KING, THE
His Majesty Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones) rules the African Prideland with might and strength but his weak and wicked brother Scar (voice of Jeremy Irons) is jealous. When all creatures great and small hail the birth of Simba, son of Mufasa, Scar slips further down the totem pole of power and hatches a hideous scheme to usurp the throne. After promising three mangy hyenas all the food they can eat, they inflame a wildebeest stampede that ends in tragedy. Rescued at death’s door on the desert floor by Timon, a friendly meerkat and Pumbaa, a jovial warthog, Simba (adult voice by Matthew Broderick) thrives in a jungle paradise but a chance reunion with Nala, the lioness to which Simba is betrothed, impels Simba to return to his homeland, which has been ravaged by Scar’s neglect.
Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Lion King is a big film…Disney’s greatest hit; the highest grossing animated feature; a record-breaking video and the tenth biggest box office smash of all time. Now it’s even bigger: bigger than Ben Hur ever was and blown-up beyond its kiddie-pleasing proportions for re-release on large format screens.
It’s been eight years since The Lion King first roared into the hearts of man, woman and child, as critics clamored to find some deep, dark and sinister symbolism behind the Shakespeare-influenced tale.
The gay lobby went all sniffy over the effeminate Scar (voiced with silky menace by Jeremy Irons) and they carped over how there were no lionesses in the evil one’s heart. The nitpickers labeled it “sexist, racist and homophobic” but the big cat was lapped up by the little ones, all agog in their wide-eyed innocence as an army of goose-stepping hyenas march in the shadow of der fuehrer Scar.
And they they probably didn’t notice the native American animals that live happily in Africa and a meerkat that behaves more like an alley cat. As usual, the villain has more color and character in a single claw than the stentorian Mufasa has in his mane to tail; Simba is a bore when he vacillates over his return to Prideland (is there ever any doubt that he will?) and in Pumbaa, the film-makers pander to the juvenile fascination with farting.
Just about every character is interchangeable with one in Star Wars, which to me, smacks of calculation and the (Oscar winning) songs, by Tim Rice and Elton John are so forgettable…go on, hum a few bars now!
Frankly, I felt more raw emotion in the more recent Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron and the sadly neglected The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) was more fun. Of course, you can’t argue with the Lion King’s roaring success, but for some, bigger doesn’t make it better.
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LION KING, THE (G)
(US - 1994)
VOICES: Rowan Atkinson, Matthew Broderick, Niketa Calame, Jim Cummings, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Guillaume, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane
PRODUCER: Don Hahn
DIRECTOR: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
SCRIPT: Irene Mecchi, Jorgen Klubien, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton
EDITOR: Tom Finan
MUSIC: Elton John, Lebo M, Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chris Sanders
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: ACMI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2002 (Melbourne)