THE LION KING
* * * *
(Dark, profound, Disney adaptation)
First, there was the animated Disney film, then the unbelievably clever Broadway musical. Now comes Disney's dark and profound interpretation of the Circle of Life, as seen through the eyes of a lion.
You know the story: Simba's father is murdered by his ambitious brother, who blames his death on the lion cub who runs away and is raised by two fun-loving animals: warthog Puumba and meerkat Timon. Scar is in cahoots with those nasty hyenas and runs the pride into the ground. Simba returns to learn the truth and save the pride. It's a great story, filled with all sorts of profound lessons about life, death, loyalty and survival.
Director Jon Favreau has chosen to tell the story with photorealistic CGI animals, enhanced through the magic of animatronics and set against a realistic backdrop.
The opening scene shows the variety of African animals who gather at dawn to witness the arrival of Lion King Mufasa's (voice of James Earl Jones) son, Simba.
While the cartoon feature and Broadway musical require your imagination a bit more, this version strives for realism, and some of that realism can be dark and violent, which could be frightening for some younger children.
The songs are there, and they range from silly to haunting. The meerkat and the warthog provide the needed comic relief, while Scar and the hyenas are the essence of evil.
The realistic portrayal of the animals against the African plains background is spectacular, and it doesn't take long to believe that these animals can think and talk. It is a new way of looking at the classic tale, and if you buy into it you should be as enthralled as we were.
Rated PG, with some violence.