Friday, April 24, 2009

The Lion King

The Lion King; animated musical drama, USA, 1994; D: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, S: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Moira Kelly, Whoopi Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson

Africa. The lion king Mufasa gets a cub called Simba. Simba's evil uncle Scar realizes that he will never become king while they are alive, so he releases a stampede of animals at them in a valley. Mufasa dies, while Simba, plagued by guilt of his father's death, leaves the valley. In an oasis, he finds Timon and Pumba, a meerkat and a warthog, and becomes their friend. As years pass by, Simba grows into a lion and returns back to his home, taking the place as the king and replacing Scar who gets killed by hyenas. Simba and Nala also get a cub.

"The Lion King" was a huge surprise: although an animated film, it won numerous awards and also earned a huge amount of money at the box office, confirming the Disney Renaissance. It is a matter of a gentle allegory about greed for power, a fine film despite some accusations of plagiarism of "Kimba the White Lion", "Epic of Sundiata" and "Hamlet", an ode to ethics and higher values of life, yet it still suffers from some typical Disney flaws and cliches that are hiding behind melancholy (a comic sidekick; black and white characters; musical numbers; the bad guy has to die at the end...). First off, the typical mainstream, banal, forced humor is again present in the story - for instance, warthog Pumba sings how everyone avoided him because of his fart. Hero Simba plans to divert attention of the hyenas by making Timon and Pumba disguise in Hawaiian female clothes. The three dumb hyenas are especially annoying. Unfortunately, the the humor is rarely sophisticated. Secondly, the story is rather thin - maybe it is just too compact, but it seems it can be filled in just two acts. It has a right to do it that way, yet the dramatic storyline is too simplistic and often disrupted. Besides absolutely enchanting animation and Disney charm, the main highlight is Elton John's song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", which is simply perfect and gives the movie pathos and the impression of a bigger dimension.


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